Kurds blamed by Turkey for tractor bomb suicide attack
Published 03/08/2015 | 02:30
In a serious escalation of violence between Turkey and Kurdish militants, two soldiers were killed and scores injured in a suicide attack on a police station blamed on the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
Militants drove the tractor, which was filled with two tons of TNT, into a military outpost in the Dogubeyazit district of the eastern Agri province bordering Iran. Such was the power of the blast that houses in a village several hundred yards away were hit by debris.
The PKK did not claim responsibility for the attack, but if blame were proved it would mark a significant departure from the group's usual tactics, which, unlike jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), eschew suicide bombings in favour of guerrilla-style warfare.
"The attack has been carried out by members of PKK," the Turkish army said in a statement. The group is designated as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the EU and the US. Turkey has been locked in a vicious insurgent war with the group for more than 30 years.
Violence between the PKK and the Turkish government has escalated sharply in recent weeks in the wake of a bombing by Isil in the city of Suruc, six miles north of the Syrian-Turkish border. That triggered a wave of attacks on Turkish officials, including the killing of two policemen, marking the end of a tenuous two-year ceasefire between the government and the PKK.
Soon after, Turkish warplanes began pummelling PKK camps and positions in the Qandil Mountains in northern Iraq, engaging in an intense air campaign that has killed hundreds.
On Saturday, social media was flooded with photos depicting charred corpses and ravaged buildings in the village of Zargale after a Turkish airstrike killed 10 civilians there.
The airstrike has become the most controversial single action yet in Turkey's campaign against the Kurdish militants' bases in northern Iraq that began more than a week ago.
In response, President Massoud Barzani, head of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region in Iraq, called on the PKK to withdraw from the north of the country so as to ensure civilians would not be hurt. He also demanded that Turkey refrain from bombing civilians.
Ankara, meanwhile, declared that it was "saddened" over reports of civilian deaths but insisted that airstrikes were being conducted only after intelligence ensured there were no civilians in the area, according to local media reports. It also vowed to hold an investigation.