Bomb blast leaves 8 dead in Turkey following arrest of pro-Kurdish leaders

November 4, 2016, 7:48am

A bomb blast near a police station rocked the Turkish city of Diyarbakir, reportedly leaving eight people dead, including two policemen. The explosion came just hours after the government arrested a dozen members of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in the latest phase of its clampdown on those involved in July’s failed coup.

According to AP, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that eight people were killed in the blast, which struck at 8 a.m. local time Friday (1 a.m. ET) in the central district of Baglar. Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said both police and civilians were killed in the attack. Hundreds of people were injured.

The bombing was carried out by a minibus laden with explosives, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported. According to the Diyarbakir governor’s office, the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, claimed the attack.

Turkey has been plagued by a series of deadly bombings over the course of the last 18 months, following the end of a fragile ceasefire in 2015 between the Turkish security forces and the PKK.

The bomb blast hit just hours after the government arrested leading members of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party, or HDP, including the joint leaders. The government has accused the HDP of links to the PKK terrorist group and the deputies were arrested for failing to appear in court to testify as part of a counterterrorism investigation, a security source told Anadolu.

A security source speaking to the Guardian claimed that the arrested legislators were being held at a police station very close to the bomb site.

The joint leaders of the HDP detained were Selahattin Demirtaş, known as the Kurdish Obama by some supporters, and Figen Yuksekdag. Both were arrested following raids on their homes in Diyarbakir and Ankara respectively.

Earlier this week Gultan Kisanak, the HDP mayor of Diyarbakir, along with co-mayor Firat Anli, was arrested over their alleged membership in the PKK. Erdoğan has arrested thousands of civil servants, judges and members of the media as part of a widespread clampdown on those seen to be supportive of the failed coup.

In the wake of the arrests, the Turkish government also shut off access to major messaging and social media services, including WhatsApp, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. According to the Turkey Blocks monitoring service: “Internet restrictions are increasingly being used in Turkey to suppress media coverage of political incidents – a form of censorship deployed at short notice to prevent civil unrest.”