Turkey launches strikes hours after Ankara blast; Prime Minister names suspect

Six soldiers were killed and another was wounded in a roadside bombing that hit an armored military vehicle in the southeastern Turkish province of Diyarbakir on Thursday, semi-official Anadolu news agency reported, citing a statement from the Turkish General Staff.

The attack comes as the Turkish military launched airstrikes in northern Iraq which followed an explosion Wednesday in Ankara in which 28 people were killed and 61 more injured.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu confirmed the strikes on Thursday and said the attack in Ankara was carried out by Saleh Najar, a man born in northern Syria. He allegedly has links to the YPG, a Kurdish separatist group.

“It has been revealed that a YPG member who infiltrated from Syria with members of the separatist terror organization conducted this attack,” Davutoglu said.

Turkey blamed the PKK — another Kurdish separatist group that the United States and Turkey both call a terror organization — for the Thursday attack.

Interior Minister Efkan Ala said that 14 people have been detained in different provinces throughout the country in connection with the Ankara blast, according to Anadolu.

Saleh Muslim, the head of the YPG, denied that the Syrian Kurdish group is responsible for the bombing in the capital.

Wednesday’s explosion occurred near three military vehicles and a private vehicle in central Ankara, surrounded by Turkish Parliament buildings, Anadolu reported. The vehicles were stopped at a traffic light.

Authorities believe a bomb-laden vehicle caused the blast, Kiliclar said, according to Anadolu.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that 20 of those killed were military personnel.

Video aired on CNN Turk showed large flames reaching toward the night sky from an area on the ground. Lights from numerous emergency vehicles flashed nearby.

Airstrikes

The Turkish military said it was targeting “top figures” from the PKK in Thursday’s airstrikes. Northern Iraq is home to the majority of that country’s Kurdish population.

A top PKK leader, Cemil Bayik, said his organization does not know who carried out Wednesday’s attack in Ankara.

“We know there are people who have conducted such acts before as retaliation of massacres in Kurdistan,” Bayik said in an interview with the PKK-affiliated Firat News Agency. “Those who conducted the attack will probably announce why soon.”

There have been no reported claim of responsibility.

Armed Kurdish groups

So, why are Turkish leaders blaming the PKK if they did not claim responsibility? And what does the YPG have to do with it?

Like most issues in the Middle East, it’s complicated.

Here’s the very short version:

The Kurds, an ethnic minority spread in the intersecting parts of Turkey, Syria and Iraq, have long wanted their own independent state.

The PKK took up arms for the cause and have carried out attacks similar to the Ankara one in the past.

The YPG is the armed wing of the PYD, another Kurdish separatist group based in Syria, and Turkey sees it as an affiliate of the PKK. The country says the YPG and the PKK are both terrorist organizations.

Kurds fighting ISIS

But the YPG has been one of the most successful groups fighting ISIS, so now they’re getting help from the U.S.-led coalition.

That’s drawn the ire of Turkish President Erdogan, who said last week the U.S. is responsible for a “sea of blood” in Syria because of its support for the YPG.

“YPG is part of the separatist terror organization,” Davutoglu said on Thursday after the Ankara attack. “This was already known to us but we hope this act shows all our allies and the world this fact.”

Solidarity

“Our determination to respond in kind against such attacks against our unity and future from outside and inside is even more strengthened through such attacks,” Erdogan said in a statement after the attacks. “Turkey will not hesitate to use its right to self-defense anytime, anywhere, and in all situations.”

His thoughts were echoed by U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

“We strongly condemn this cowardly attack which appears to have targeted buses carrying Turkish military personnel. We stand with our Turkish allies in the face of this horrific act, which only strengthens our resolve to deepen our ongoing cooperation in the fight against terrorism,” he said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that “there’s no justification for barbaric crime. Its organizers and masterminds have to pay for what they’ve done. What happened, once again, shows the need of a unity of all states in fight against international terrorism.”

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