ISTANBUL: Six people were killed and 39 wounded Thursday in a car bomb attack blamed on Kurdish militants that ripped through a police station and an adjacent housing complex for officers and their families in southeastern Turkey.
Two people were killed in an initial car bomb attack by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Cinar and four more lost their lives when a building collapsed due to damage, the governor’s office of Diyarbakir province said in a statement.
The violence comes after 10 German tourists were killed on Tuesday in a suicide bombing in central Istanbul, which the government blamed on the Islamic State (IS) group, an arch foe of the PKK.
Images published by Turkish media showed the late night blast in Cinar caused huge damage to the residential building used by the police officers and their families, with the entire outer wall blown out.
Both police and civilians were wounded but initial reports said all those killed were civilians.
The governor’s office said 14 people were injured in the initial bomb blast while 25 were wounded by the building’s collapse, including five who had been rescued from the rubble by emergency teams.
The attackers also followed up the car bomb attack with rocket fire and long-range gunfire, reports said.
The Dogan news agency said a 40-minute clash then ensued between security forces and the rebels.
Security forces have now blocked all entrances and exits to Cinar and have launched a wide operation to find the assailants, it added.
Months of violence in southeast
The PKK launched a formal insurgency against the Turkish state in 1984, initially fighting for Kurdish independence although it now presses more for greater autonomy and rights for the country’s largest ethnic minority. The conflict has left tens of thousands dead.
A new upsurge of violence between the security forces and the PKK erupted in July following attacks blamed on Islamic extremists, shattering a fragile two-and-a-half-year truce.
Vowing to flush out the PKK from Turkey’s urban centers, the authorities have in recent weeks enforced curfews in three locations in the southeast to back up military operations that activists say have killed dozens of civilians.
A curfew has been in force in the Sur neighborhood of Diyarbakir city since December 2 while curfews in the towns of Silopi and Cizre in Sirnak province have been in place since December 14.
According to a report published Wednesday by the Diyarbakir branch of the Human Rights Association (IHD) NGO, 170 civilians have been killed under military curfews imposed in seven towns and cities in the southeast from August 16.
In Diyarbakir alone, 37 civilians had been killed, including 10 children and three women, it said. The government says hundreds of “terrorists” have been killed but denies the civilian losses are on this scale.
But President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said after the Istanbul attack that the government makes no differentiation between “terror” groups “whatever their name or abbreviation is.”
Erdogan also lashed out at Turkish and foreign academics —including the famed linguistics expert Noam Chomsky—as being “ignorant” for signing a petition calling for an end to the security operations in the southeast.
In other violence blamed on the PKK overnight, militants launched a rocket and gun attack on a gendarmerie post in Midyat in Mardin province, Dogan said. There were no reports of casualties.
Meanwhile reports said that a policeman was shot dead in the Altindag district of the capital Ankara, Dogan said, but there was no indication of any link to the PKK.