Istanbul – A Syrian national with links to Syrian Kurdish militia carried out the suicide bombing in Ankara that targeted military personnel and killed at least 28 people and wounded dozens of others, Turkey’s prime minister said Thursday, and vowed to retaliate against these groups.
Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters during a visit to Turkey’s chief of military staff that the Syrian man, who he identified as Sahih Neccar, had carried out the attack in cooperation with Turkey’s own outlawed Kurdish rebel group.
Authorities have detained 14 people in connection with the attacks and were trying to identify others. Turkey’s military, meanwhile, said its jets conducted cross-border raids against Kurdish rebel positions in northern Iraq, hours after the Ankara attack, striking at a group of about 60-70 rebels of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.
“It has been determined with certainty that this attack was carried out by members of the separatist terror organization together with a member of the YPG who infiltrated from Syria,”
Davutoglu said, referring to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, known as the PKK, as well as the Syrian Kurdish militia group, the People’s Protection Units.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which killed military personnel and civilians, although suspicion had immediately fallen on the PKK or the Islamic State group.
The leader of the main Syrian Kurdish group, Salih Muslim, denied that his group was behind the Ankara attack and warned Turkey against taking Syria ground action.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that despite the denials, evidence obtained by the Turkish authorities pointed to the group.
“Despite the fact that their leader says they have nothing to do with this, the information and documents obtained by our Interior Ministry and all our intelligence organizations shows that (the attack) was theirs,” Erdogan said.
The car bomb went off late Wednesday in Turkey’s capital during evening rush hour. It exploded near buses carrying military personnel that had stopped at traffic lights, in an area close to parliament and armed forces headquarters and lodgings. The blast was the second deadly bombing in Ankara in four months.
Davutoglu said Syria’s government, which he accused of backing Syrian Kurdish militias, is also to blame. And in an apparent reference to the U.S., he called on Turkey’s allies to stop its support for the Syrian Kurdish group.
Erdogan said the attack would show the international community the strong links that exist between the PKK and the Syrian Kurdish militias.
Turkey regards the Syrian Democratic Union Party, and its military wing, the People’s Protection Units, as terrorists because of their affiliation to Turkey’s outlawed Kurdish rebel group. It has been pressing its ally, the United States, to recognize the Syrian Kurdish forces as terrorists. The U.S. already lists the PKK as a terror group.
But Washington has relied heavily on the Syrian Kurds in the battle against the Islamic State group and has rejected Turkish pressure.
“Those who directly or indirectly back an organization that is the enemy of Turkey, risk losing the title of being a friend of Turkey,” Davutoglu said, in an apparent reference to Washington. “It is out of the question for us to excuse a terror organization that threatens the capital of our country.”
Paul T. Levin, head of the Stockholm University Institute for Turkish Studies, told The Associated Press that “it will be interesting to see how the United States reacts because they view the YPG as an ally … Will they (the United States) shift their view on YPG?”
On Thursday, six soldiers were killed in southeastern Turkey after PKK rebels detonated a bomb on a road linking the cities of Diyarbakir and Bingol as their military vehicle was passing by, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
The military said Thursday that Turkish jets attacked PKK positions in northern Iraq’s Haftanin region, hitting the group of rebels which it said included a number of senior PKK leaders. The claim couldn’t be verified.
Turkey’s air force has been striking PKK positions in northern Iraq since a fragile two-and-a-half year-old peace process with the group collapsed in July, reigniting a fierce three-decade old conflict.
Earlier, Yeni Safak, a newspaper close to the government, said the bomber had registered as a refugee in Turkey and Turkish authorities were able to identify him from his fingerprints.
In October, suicide bombings blamed on IS targeted a peace rally outside the main train station in Ankara, killing 102 people in Turkey’s deadliest attack in years.
The attack drew international condemnation and Turkish leaders have vowed to find those responsible and to retaliate against them with force.
“Our determination to retaliate to attacks that aim against our unity, togetherness and future grows stronger with every action,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday. “It must be known that Turkey will not refrain from using its right to self-defense at all times.”
The attack came at a tense time when the Turkish government is facing an array of challenges. Hundreds of people have been killed in renewed fighting following the collapse of the peace process and tens of thousands have been displaced.
Turkey has also been helping efforts led by the U.S. to combat the Islamic State group in neighboring Syria, and has faced several deadly bombings in the last year that were blamed on IS.
The Syrian war is raging along Turkey’s southern border. Recent airstrikes by Russian and Syrian forces have prompted tens of thousands of Syrian refugees to flee to Turkey’s border.