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Thursday 22 March 2018

Turkish president vows to destroy terrorists following months of carnage

Turkish troops head to the Syrian border, in Karkamis, Turkey (AP)
Turkish troops head to the Syrian border, in Karkamis, Turkey (AP)

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to "destroy terrorists" after months of deadly attacks throughout the country.

He also r eiterated his claim that a child suicide bomber was responsible for last weekend's explosion which claimed at least 54 lives in the south-east.

Speaking at a rally in Gaziantep where the suicide bombing took place at a Kurdish wedding, Mr Erdogan said the "terrorists" are being "picked up one-by-one" by Turkey's security forces.

"They will all be cleansed out like a cancer cell," he told a crowd of his supporters.

"We will find them and punish them."

Last week, Mr Erdogan said a child aged between 12 and 14 was the suicide bomber, although the country's prime minister Binali Yildirim said later that the culprit was still unidentified and investigations were continuing.

On Sunday, Mr Erdogan reiterated the earlier claim, without saying whether it was a result of the investigation.

He said: "Terror has used a 14-year-old child as a suicide bomber and shed blood, killed people. In this attack, our 54 citizens, including 34 children, died."

Authorities have blamed Islamic State (IS) for the Gaziantep attack, but neither they nor any other militant groups have claimed responsibility.

Mr Erdogan repeated that the country's parliament will decide whether to reintroduce a death penalty in the wake of a failed coup on July 15 that claimed at least 270 lives. This has triggered an outcry by rights groups in Turkey and the west.

"My nation wants the death penalty," he said. "That is the decision of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey."

Turkey has sent tanks across the Syrian border following weeks of deadly attacks by the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or the PKK, and IS. The move aims to both fight IS and halt the advance of Syrian Kurdish groups.

On Sunday, two separate blasts in the Turkey's Kurdish-dominated south-east killed one Turkish soldier and wounded eight others, and Kurdish militants launched a rocket-propelled grenade at a civilian airport, officials and the state-run news agency said.

One soldier was killed and three were wounded after a roadside bomb was triggered remotely by rebels linked to the PKK in the Hakkari province, the state-run Anadolu Agency said.

In the ensuing firefight which included army helicopters, 10 militants were killed, the private Dogan news agency said.

In another attack, five civilian village guards were wounded in Siirt province after their van hit an improvised explosive device on a road, Anadolu said, blaming PKK for the blast.

Earlier, Kurdish rebels, apparently targeting a police checkpoint at Diyarbakir Airport, fired a grenade that exploded near the airport's VIP passenger entrance, shattering windows, the local governor's office said. No injuries were reported.

Passengers were taken to safety after the attack and flights resumed after a brief pause during the police investigation.

Violence between the PKK and security forces resumed last year, after the collapse of a two-year peace process in July.

Since then, more than 600 Turkish security personnel and thousands of PKK militants have been killed, according to Anadolu. Rights groups say hundreds of civilians have also been killed in the clashes.

On Friday, a Kurdish suicide bomber rammed an explosives-laden truck into a checkpoint near a police station in the south-east, killing at least 11 Turkish police officers and wounding 78 other people.


Press Association

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