At least 28 people were killed and 61 wounded by a car bomb targeting the military in the heart of the Turkish capital Ankara on Wednesday, the city’s governor said.
The bloodshed came on the heels of a string of attacks in Turkey, blamed on jihadists but also on Kurdish rebels. The bomb aimed at a convoy of military service vehicles, Ankara governor Mehmet Kiliclar said, quoted by the CNN-Turk and NTV channels.
Plumes of smoke were seen rising over an area and the powerful blast was heard all over the city, sending residents to their balconies in panic, an AFP correspondent said. Ambulances and fire engines were sent to the scene, which is near the Turkish military headquarters and the parliament. NTV television said the explosion happened near a residential block for top-level military staff. The spokesman for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Omer Celik, said he strongly condemned the attack, Turkish media reported. Turkish police have thrown a security cordon around the area.
There was no immediate indication about who carried out the attack, but the Islamic State group has been blamed for a string of bombings in the country since the middle of last year. The attack targeted a convoy of military service vehicles, Ankara governor Mehmet Kiliclar said, quoted by the CNN-Turk and NTV channels. The capital was already on alert after 103 people were killed on October 10 when two suicide bombers blew themselves up in a crowd of peace activists in Ankara, the bloodiest attack in the country’s modern history. Eleven people, all German tourists, were also killed on January 16 when a suicide bomber blew himself up in the tourist heart of Istanbul.
Those attacks were blamed on IS militants, as were two other deadly bombings in the country’s Kurdish-dominated southeast earlier in the year. Turkish authorities have in recent weeks detained several suspected IS members, with officials saying they were planning attacks in Istanbul and Ankara. But Turkey is also waging an all-out assault on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which has staged dozens of deadly attacks against members of the security forces in the southeast. The PKK launched an insurgency against the Turkish state in 1984, initially fighting for Kurdish independence although now more for greater autonomy and rights for the country’s largest ethnic minority.
The conflict, which has left tens of thousands of people dead, looked like it could be nearing a resolution until an uneasy truce was shattered in July. Ankara has also been carrying out air strikes against Syrian Kurdish fighters across the border wartorn Syria since the weekend. A Kurdish splinter group, the Freedom Falcons of Kurdistan (TAK), claimed a mortar attack on Istanbul’s second international airport on December 23 which killed a female cleaner and damaged several planes. Meanwhile the banned ultra-left Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) has also staged a string of usually small-scale attacks in Istanbul over the last few months.