Turkey says PKK targets in north Iraq destroyed after Ankara suicide attack

Air strikes in northern Iraq destroy Kurdish targets after the bombing in the capital, says the Turkish interior ministry.

Turkey says its warplanes have carried out raids on Kurdish targets in northern Iraq following a suicide attack on a government building in capital Ankara.

A Turkish interior ministry statement on Sunday said about 20 targets of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) group were “destroyed” in the aerial operation, including caves, shelters and depots.

The military ramped up air strikes in Iraq’s PKK bases in Gara, Hakurk, Metina and Qandil, the statement said.

Iraqi President Abdul-Latif Rashid on Monday said in an interview with Saudi Arabian state-owned broadcaster Al-Hadath that his country does not accept the repeated Turkish strikes or the presence of Turkish bases in the Kurdistan region and hopes to come to an agreement with Turkey to solve this problem.

It was not clear if the interview was filmed before or after Turkey’s latest strikes.

Ankara bombing

Sunday’s strikes came hours after a suicide bomber detonated an explosive device near an entrance of the interior ministry building in Ankara, injuring two police officers. A second assailant was killed in a shootout with police.

A news agency close to the PKK said the group claimed responsibility for the suicide attack.

A statement from the ANF news agency said the PKK planned the bombing to coincide with the opening of the parliament. It said the attack was carried out by “a team of ours linked to our Immortals Battalion” group.

The PKK is designated as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

Turkish capital Ankara hit by suicide blast
Turkish security forces cordon off an area after the explosion in Ankara [Ali Unal/AP Photo]

According to the state-run Anadolu Agency, the two attackers had seized the vehicle from a veterinarian in the central province of Kayseri, a city 260km (161 miles) southeast of Ankara.

CCTV footage showed a vehicle pulling up to the interior ministry’s main gate and one of its occupants quickly walking towards the building before being engulfed in an explosion, while the other remains on the street.

The blast killed one of the attackers and authorities “neutralised”, or killed, the other, the interior minister said of the incident that rattled a central district that is home to ministerial buildings and nearby parliament.

The suicide attack occurred hours before the Turkish parliament was set to reopen after its three-month summer recess with an address by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who said the blast was “the latest attempt” to inflict terror on the Turks.

“Those who threaten the peace and security of citizens have not achieved their goals and never will,” he said.

The PKK and ISIL (ISIS) have carried out such attacks in tourist areas and city centres of Turkey in the past.

Al Jazeera’s Sinem Koseoglu, reporting from Istanbul, said security was tightened around the parliament and interior ministry buildings after the attack.

“They [authorities] have cleared the area … There is damage on the security entrance of the ministry and workers are trying to fix the damages. There is also a Turkish flag by the gate to express solidarity and the territorial integrity of the country,” she said.

Turkish security forces cordon off an area after an explosion in Ankara, Sunday
A suicide bomber detonated an explosive device just outside the interior ministry building [Ali Unal/AP Photo]

The bomb on Ataturk Boulevard was the first in Ankara since March 2016, when 37 people were killed after a bomb-laden car exploded at a crowded central transport hub.

Police said they carried out controlled explosions for “suspicious package incidents” in other parts of Ankara.

The incident came almost a year after six people were killed and 81 wounded in an explosion in a busy pedestrian street in central Istanbul. Turkey blamed Kurdish fighters for that.

During a series of bloody incidents in 2015 and 2016, Kurdish, ISIL and other groups either claimed or were blamed for several attacks in major Turkish cities.

Turkey’s parliament is expected to consider ratifying Sweden’s bid to join NATO in the coming weeks after Ankara raised initial objections and delayed the enlargement of the bloc.

Erdogan did not mention Sweden or NATO, but told members of parliament that agreeing on a new constitution was a priority for the new session. The parliament speaker said its agenda would not surrender to “terror”.

European Council President Charles Michel said he strongly condemned the “terrorist attack”, while EU Commissioner for Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi said the EU supports Turkey “in its fight against terrorism”.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies