A military convoy has been hit by a bomb in southeast Turkey, killing at least six troops and seriously injuring one more person — escalating tensions in an already febrile atmosphere following a deadly bomb blast in Ankara on Wednesday.
The latest explosion happened on Thursday on a highway between the towns of Diyarbakir and Bingol. At the time of the blast, the military vehicle was searching for mines on the highway linking Diyarbakir, the largest city in the mainly Kurdish southeast, to the district of Lice.
During rush hour on Wednesday, a car bomb went off near a Turkish military barracks in Ankara, killing 28 people and injuring 61. Within hours, the Turkish military bombed bases in northern Iraq of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade insurgency against the Turkish state and which Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu accused of collaborating in the car bombing.
Davutoglu said on Thursday that the bombing was carried out by the Syrian Kurdish militia the People's Protection Units (YPG), with help from the PKK and Kurds in northern Iraq. The attack was clear evidence the YPG — which has been assisted by the United States in its fight against Islamic State in Syria — was a terrorist organization, he said, and vowed retaliation.
"Yesterday's attack was directly targeting Turkey and the perpetrator is the YPG and the divisive terrorist organization PKK. All necessary measures will be taken against them," Davutoglu said in a televised speech.
All relevant information proving the responsbility of the YPG would be passed to members of the United Nations Security Council, he said. "Just as we don't sit down with al-Qaida and Islamic State, we cannot sit down with the YPG either. Those that see Turkey's enemy as their friend will lose Turkey's friendship."
The YPG's political affiliate, the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), denied the accusation.
"We are completely refuting that," Saleh Muslim, co-chair of the PYD, told Reuters by phone. "Davutoglu is preparing for something else because they are shelling us as you know for the past week."
He also denied claims that the YPG was firing into Turkey. "I can assure you that not even one bullet is fired by YPG into Turkey," Muslim said. "They don't consider Turkey as an enemy," he said.
Meanwhile, Turkish artillery continued to shell Kurdish fighters in Syria for the fifth day in a row, despite appeals from Russia and the US calling for a cessation of hostilities towards the YPG in Syria. Ankara sees the militia as an extension of the PKK.
Turkish military have also conducted air strikes against several PKK targets in northern Iraq, according to Davutoglu.
Cemil Bayik, the co-leader of the PKK, said he didn't know who was responsible for the attack in Ankara but it was possibly a response to "massacres in Kurdistan" — referring to the Kurdish region in Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey.
Wednesday's attack was the latest in a series of bombings in Turkey in the past year which have mostly been blamed on Islamic State militants.
Turkey is getting dragged ever deeper into the war in neighboring Syria and is trying to contain some of the fiercest violence in decades in its predominantly Kurdish southeast.
The YPG has taken advantage in recent weeks of a major Syrian army offensive around the northern city of Aleppo, backed by Russian air strikes, to seize ground from Syrian rebels near the Turkish border.
That has alarmed Turkey, which fears the advances will stoke Kurdish separatist ambitions at home. It has been bombarding YPG positions in an effort to stop them taking the town of Azaz, the last stronghold of Turkish-backed Syrian rebels north of Aleppo before the Turkish frontier.
Hundreds of Syrian rebels with weapons and vehicles have re-entered Syria from Turkey over the last week to reinforce insurgents fending off the Kurdish-led assault on Azaz, rebel sources said on Thursday.
Separately, an explosion damaged a building housing a Turkish cultural center near Sweden's capital Stockholm, according to officials, who said no-one had been injured.
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