A Kurdish militant group has claimed responsibility for a bomb attack that targeted Turkish government buildings in Ankara on Sunday, killing one civilian and wounding two police officers.
The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is designated as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States, and the European Union, said in a statement that the attack was carried out by two of its members as a retaliation for Turkey’s military operations against Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq and Syria.
According to the Turkish Interior Ministry, the attackers murdered a civilian and stole his vehicle before detonating a bomb near the ministry’s main gate, where security personnel were stationed. One of the assailants blew himself up and the other was “neutralized” by the security forces. The ministry said that investigators found four different types of guns, three hand grenades, one rocket launcher, and C-4 explosives at the scene. The ministry also confirmed that at least one of the attackers was a PKK member and that the identity of the other was still being verified.
The attack occurred on the same day as the opening of parliament in Ankara, where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivered a speech vowing to continue his fight against terrorism and separatism. Erdogan said that Turkey would not allow any “terror corridor” to be established along its borders and that it would defend its national interests and sovereignty at all costs.
The PKK has been waging a violent insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984, demanding greater autonomy and cultural rights for the Kurdish minority, which makes up between 15% and 20% of Turkey’s population. The conflict has claimed more than 40,000 lives and displaced millions of people.
The PKK has also established bases in northern Iraq and Syria, where it trains and arms its fighters and launches cross-border attacks against Turkish targets. Turkey considers the PKK and its affiliates in Iraq and Syria as existential threats and has repeatedly carried out airstrikes and ground operations against them.
Twenty PKK Targets
The PKK’s claim of responsibility for the Ankara bombing came just hours after Turkey’s military announced that it had destroyed 20 PKK targets in northern Iraq on Sunday, including caves, bunkers, shelters, and warehouses. The Turkish Defense Ministry said that it used “the maximum amount of domestic and national ammunition” and that “many terrorists were neutralized” in the strikes.
The Ankara bombing was the first terrorist attack in the capital since 2016, when a series of deadly blasts rocked the city, killing hundreds of people and injuring thousands more. Most of those attacks were claimed by either the PKK or its offshoots, such as the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK), which have carried out more radical and indiscriminate attacks against civilians and security forces.
The TAK also claimed responsibility for a twin bombing outside an Istanbul soccer stadium in December 2016, which killed 38 people and wounded 155. The group said that it targeted police officers who were guarding the stadium after a match between two rival teams.
The Ankara bombing has raised fears of a renewed escalation of violence between Turkey and the PKK, as well as increased tensions with Iraq and Syria, where Turkey has been involved in multiple conflicts. The attack has also cast a shadow over the prospects of a peaceful resolution of the Kurdish issue, which has been one of the most complex and longstanding problems in Turkey’s modern history.