Thirteen police officers were killed and others wounded in a bomb attack on a minibus carried out by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the eastern province of Iğdır on Tuesday, adding to the grief of a nation in mourning and raising the recent death toll to 30.
The officers were targeted while escorting customs officials to the Dilucu Border Gate separating Turkey and the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, which is sandwiched between Armenia and Iran and controlled by Azerbaijan. The wounded were taken to the Iğdır State Hospital.
Twelve names of the deceased have been released so far. Mehmet Parlak, Yusuf Yelkenci, Fehmi Şahin, Ali Koç, Haluk Varlı, Burak Zor, Yalçın Talık, Yaşar Doğancay, Hasan Eser, İbrahim Derindere, Adem Cankurtaran and Bekir Serhat Kaya were among the officers killed.
Şahin was a bodyguard once employed by former President Abdullah Gül. Media has reported that the guard was a favorite of Gül’s, who would call him by his first name.
In a response to news of his death, Gül posted several tweets, writing: “I feel sorrow for the martyrs deep in my heart, with [news of new] casualties nearly every day… Şahin worked as my guard for years. I am overwhelmed with grief after hearing of his death. I offer my condolences to the nation.”
The attack came after 16 soldiers were killed and six others wounded in a clash on Sunday sparked by a PKK offensive in the Dağlıca area of Hakkari province.
The Iğdır Governor’s Office issued a written statement on Tuesday, condemning the attack, and announcing that two suspects had been detained and the search for others continues.
On Monday, the PKK opened fire on a police vehicle carrying several officers on patrol in the Başkale district of Van. An officer and two civilians were killed in clashes that ensued when the officers returned fire. An investigation into local PKK cells is underway.
The number of police and military casualties incurred from clashes with the PKK since the June 7 general election has reached 116. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced approximately a month after the election that a settlement process instigated to solve the decades-old Kurdish problem had ended and that the PKK had begun targeting security forces.
On Monday night, more than 40 warplanes targeted PKK bases in northern Iraq, responding to the attacks on Sunday, the deadliest since the two-year ceasefire collapsed in July. A security source said scores of PKK terrorists were killed in the airstrikes.
The renewed conflict, occurring less than two months before an election the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) hopes will restore its majority, has shattered the process Erdoğan launched in 2012 in an attempt to end violence that killed more than 40,000 people over three decades.
It has also complicated Turkey’s role in the US-led fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). A Kurdish militia allied with the PKK has been battling ISIL in northern Syria, backed by US air strikes. But Turkey fears territorial gains by Syria’s Kurds will fuel separatist sentiment among its own Kurdish population.
Dozens of F-16 and F-4 jets took part in the air operation in northern Iraq, which began around 10 p.m. on Monday and continued for six hours, the security source said. The air strikes targeted areas around the PKK’s bases in Qandil, Basyan Avashin and Zap, and hit weapons and food stores in addition to the militants’ positions.
Meanwhile, security forces carried out a controlled detonation of explosives in a vehicle found in the southeastern province of Siirt on Tuesday. Bekir E. left home four days ago, allegedly to retrieve the car, which had been repaired. Worried by his disappearance, his family notified authorities and the car was found, loaded with explosives, in the Baykan district of Siirt. A search for Bekir E. is ongoing.
On Tuesday, members of the PKK opened fire on an ambulance in the Dargeçit district of the southeastern province of Mardin. No casualties have been reported and an investigation has been launched.
Off-duty officer dies after PKK attack in Tunceli
A member of the police force travelling in his private vehicle with his daughter on the Tunceli-Erzincan highway was killed in a PKK attack on Tuesday. The officer was taken to the Tunceli State Hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries, while his daughter escaped unharmed.
A clash ensued after the PKK also attacked a military post in the province of Şırnak with rocket launchers. No casualties have been reported.
The PKK, which launched a separatist insurgency in 1984, is designated as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the EU and the US.
An armored military vehicle carrying gendarmes escorting a group of road maintenance workers was attacked with rocket launchers by the PKK on Tuesday in the Tekman district of Erzurum.
12 detained in anti-terror operation in İstanbul
Also on Tuesday, the National Police Department Counterterrorism Unit (TEM) launched simultaneous anti-terror operations in nine districts in İstanbul, including Kadıköy and Çekmeköy. Approximately 20 homes and workplaces were raided during the operation and 12 people found to have attended illegal protests and determined to be organizing new ones were detained.