Five people, including three police officers, were wounded in southeastern Turkey, a pro-government mayor said on Monday, when suspected Kurdish militants attacked his car as he returned from a presidential campaign rally for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Ceylanpınar Mayor Menderes Atilla said a car bomb detonated as his car drove through the town of Ceylanpınar in Şanlıurfa province late on Sunday, injuring the policemen. The attackers then opened fire, causing minor injuries to his driver and a bodyguard.
“There was a blast from a car loaded with explosives… as I was returning from the prime minister’s rally. We came under fire from another car by gunmen using long-barreled weapons. The gunmen’s car left the scene after firing a few rounds,” Atilla told reporters, adding that he believed terrorists from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) were behind the ambush.
There has been no word from the PKK since the attack, but if their involvement is confirmed it would be a blow to efforts aimed at bringing an end to a 30-year insurgency that has haunted the Southeast and left an estimated 40,000 people dead.
Only last week, Parliament passed a bill that for the first time legally recognizes the government’s negotiations to bring a permanent halt to hostilities with PKK terrorists, who have for decades been demanding greater autonomy and rights from Ankara.
Erdoğan is campaigning to become Turkey’s first directly elected president in the Aug. 10 election, a position that could give him stronger executive powers to pursue his political plans. He hopes his efforts to end the insurgency will earn him significant support from Turkey’s Kurdish minority.
Şanlıurfa province could be a key electoral battleground in the coming weeks. Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) narrowly won local polls there in March, but the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) contested the result, stirring a week of violent clashes between BDP supporters and security forces.
Meanwhile, the police detained two suspects regarding the incident following the campaign rally in a raid they conducted on Monday morning. The suspects, identified as O.F. and H.D., were taken to the Şanlıurfa Police Department where they were to be questioned.