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Turkey launches airstrikes hours after Ankara explosion

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

Turkey blamed the attack on the PKK — a Kurdish separatist group that Turkey, the United States and the European Union have designated a terror organization, and which Turkey has been battling for decades. It was the second deadly blast on Turkish soil attributed by Ankara to Kurdish groups in two days.

At least 28 people were killed and 61 injured in an explosion targeting military vehicles in central Ankara Wednesday, which Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said was carried out by a member of the YPG, the Kurdish fighting force in Syria.

“It has been revealed that a YPG member who infiltrated from Syria with members of the separatist terror organization conducted this attack,” Davutoglu said, identifying the man as Syrian-born Saleh Najar.

Turkey responded to the Ankara blast with airstrikes in northern Iraq Wednesday night targeting the PKK, which it says is affiliated with YPG.

The YPG is the 30,000-strong armed wing of the PYD, the main Kurdish political actor in Syria, and receives backing from the U.S. as a key partner in the fight against ISIS.

The Turkish general staff said that a group of 60-70 people, including some of the PKK’s top figures, were targeted Wednesday night in the Haftanin region of northern Iraq, close to Turkish border, according to Anadolu. Northern Iraq is home to the majority of that country’s Kurdish population.

There has been no reported claim of responsibility for the Ankara bombing, and the PYD, YPG and PKK have all denied involvement.

A top PKK leader, Cemil Bayik, said his organization did not know who carried out the bombing.

“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.”

But in comments reported by Anadolu Thursday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan rejected the denials, saying evidence provided by Turkey’s Interior Ministry pointed to the Kurdish groups.

Fourteen people had been arrested in connection with the Ankara bombing, he said, adding the number was likely to rise, as the attack had been coordinated by actors inside and outside the country, according to Anadolu.

“The Ankara bomb indicates that Turkey’s [military] operation yields serious results in face of recent terror,” he said, according to the agency.

Turkey has been shelling YPG positions in northern Syria recently, targeting the group around the town of Azaz in Aleppo province as it has seized upon ongoing chaos in the area to make territorial advances.

Ankara has said the bombardment was a response to shelling from YPG positions.


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