Tuesday 16 January 2018

Turkey rocked by car bomb blast and shoot-out in street

Raf Sanchez in Izmir

TURKEY was rocked yesterday by a second attack within a week as suspected Kurdish militants killed two people with a car bomb outside a courthouse and then engaged police in a gun battle in the street.

With security sources still hunting an Isil gunman who massacred 39 people at an Istanbul nightclub on New Year's Day, an explosion went off in the western city of Izmir.

Two men were shot by police but a third suspect escaped.

Authorities said they suspected the attackers were members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

One police officer and a court employee were killed by the blast and 10 others injured.

The group was heavily armed with Kalashnikov rifles and grenades, and authorities said they believed the men planned to carry out a much deadlier attack but had been forced into action prematurely after being stopped at a checkpoint.

"Based on the preparation, the weapons, bombs and ammunition seized, it is understood that a big atrocity was being planned," said deputy prime minister Veysi Kaynak.

The PKK has been blamed for a string of recent attacks in Turkey and an offshoot of the group claimed responsibility for two attacks in Istanbul last month which killed more than 40 people. No group has yet claimed responsibility for yesterday's bombing.

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The PKK usually strikes in south-east Turkey, where most of the country's Kurds live, and it would be unusual for it to attack deep in the west.

The bombing and the news that yet another armed man was on the run added to a sense of perpetual danger in Turkey and is likely to further erode confidence in the ability of security services to protect the public.

Mr Kaynak insisted, as public officials have after all recent attacks, that the violence would not deter Turkey from its military operations in northern Syria, which are aimed at both Isil and Kurdish groups.

As Turkish citizens reacted with shock to the latest in a seemingly endless string of attacks, the government continued a public feud with the US over a Turkish airbase used by the American-led coalition fighting against Isil.

Turkey feels that the US has failed to provide air support to its troops fighting in northern Syria and deliberated publicly about shutting down the Incirlik airbase in response.

"Their presence [in Incirlik] is being questioned by our people and nation, and this issue is on the agenda of the government," Mr Kaynak said.

Closing the base would limit US operations against Isil, and Washington scrambled to say it was in talks about increasing support for Turkish troops.

Relations continue to sour between the US and Turkey, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan publicly accusing America of providing support for Isil.

Turkey has moved closer to Russia as it drifts further from the US, with Ankara and Moscow recently jointly brokering a shaky ceasefire in Syria. The detente between the two sides was unhindered by the assassination of Russia's ambassador to Turkey by a Turkish police officer last month.

Irish Independent

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