Bomb sparks concerns over security and Kurdish issue
A suicide bombing by the PKK this week is part of a recent increase in activity by the rebel group.
By Alakbar Raufoglu for SES Türkiye in Istanbul -- 28/05/12
A suicide bombing carried out by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) shows that the militant organisation is determined to expand its campaign of violence, although observers are skeptical that the police headquarters attacked Friday (May 25th) was the true target of the attack.
A PKK supporter waves a scarf with the yellow-red-green Kurdish colours during a pro Kurdish demonstration in Istanbul in October 2009. The terrorist group claimed responsibility for Friday's bombing. [Reuters]
The military, meanwhile, launched an offensive Sunday against the PKK after rebels killed a soldier in a clash in the Sirnak province bordering Iraq, according to state-run TRT television.
Friday's suicide bombing -- the first since October -- took place in the central Turkish province of Kayseri, as two militants set off a bomb inside their car next to a police headquarters, killing themselves, a policeman and wounding 18 others, according to Turkey's Interior Ministry.
Security forces followed the car about 100km from Kahramanmaras province to eastern Pinarbasi town, after it passed a checkpoint on the road without stopping. Police opened fire as it passed the headquarters and the bomb went off, Interior Minister Idris Naim Sahin announced.
On Saturday, the PKK claimed responsibility for the attack. Firat News, an agency close to the PKK, reported that the attack was in retaliation for an airstrike in December that was aimed at rebels but killed 34 civilians.
Four suspects were detained in connection with Friday's attack. Broadcaster NTV reported security sources as saying the bombers entered Turkey from neighbouring Syria, which is in the grip of a the 14-month-old revolt against President Bashar al-Assad.
The Syrian border region is not generally an area of major PKK activity but this month, three Turkish soldiers were killed in clashes with the rebels near the border, a region which has seen thousands of refugees fleeing from the Syrian conflict, Reuters reported.
A couple of months ago Cemil Bayik, PKK's number 2, warned that the group would stage attacks in cities outside its traditional battlegrounds in southeast Turkey.
A parliamentary subcommittee on counterterrorism called for an emergency session a few hours after the incident.
"This blast is regrettable, but wasn't unexpected. The terror organisation has lost seriously nowadays, and therefore it seeks such noisy acts," AKP MP Ruhi Acikgoz, a member of the National Defense Committee, told SES Türkiye.
He said the incident would not change the government's attitude over terrorism and Kurdish issue. "We don't arrange our policy based on terror acts, violence. We're responding it with the law."
The Friday attack followed a recent increase in activity by the rebel group, which kidnapped ten villagers from southeast Bayirli village last week. The motive was unknown.
"The bombers in Kayseri certainly were planning a very dangerous act; police prevented it," Suleyman Ozeren, director of the International Center for Terrorism and Transnational Crime at the police academy, told SES Türkiye.
Retired Army Colonel Serdar Erdurmaz, a security analyst at the Ankara-based Turkish Centre for Strategic Analysis, said police forces "are undertaking responsibilities from the army on the issue of terrorism in most regions."
"That may cause the reaction against police although in this case the main target was not known," he told SES Türkiye.
Gareth Jenkins, an Istanbul-based security analyst, agreed that the target of the bomb remained unknown. "It seems that it was detonated while it was being taken somewhere else and that the police station outside which it exploded was not the original intended target," he said.
"It currently seems likely that the car bomb that was detonated in Kayseri was intended as part of this new strategy and was being transported to another city, such as Ankara or Istanbul, when it was intercepted by the security forces, leading to an armed clash and its detonation," Jenkins said.
The Friday attack also marked the debate over negotiation calls to AKP government from Kurdish politicians.
Hasip Kaplan, BDP MP and party's deputy legislative group leader told SES Türkiye that if the government doesn't respond to their dialog calls, "the situation might be more dangerous in Turkey."
"It's already 30 years that clashes are continuing only because of the wrong government policy. They're arresting our members and therefore we can't talk about it in the parliament. And when politicians don't talk, weapons are talking," he said.
Answering to Kaplan, AKP's Ruhi Acikgoz told SES Türkiye that the government is always open to dialog. "We're talking to those respectable men who are considered really influential among Kurds and are not advocating for the terror."
When it comes to BDP, he said, "Although they're calling us to dialog, then they directing it to other doors, such as Imrali. That is not how it works."
More than 40,000 people have been killed in the PKK insurgency since the group took up arms against the state in 1984, including at least 488 in the last 11 months. The PKK is listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and the EU.