Ankara Explosion: Turkey Retaliates After Second Blast

Ankara explosion on February 17 2016

Turkish military jets bombed a Kurdish militia camp in Iraq, and a second bomb blast went off in southeast Turkey today, a day after the Ankara explosion that left 28 dead and another 61 injured. The situation threatens to complicate the already delicate relationship between Turkey and its Western allies in the fight against the IS (Islamic State).

The Ankara explosion occurred on Wednesday in an area close to Turkey’s parliament, the Department of Defense and a military training academy in the nation’s capital. The Ankara explosion occurred during rush hour, targeting a shuttle bus containing military personnel and other military vehicles that were waiting at a traffic light when the explosives — hidden in a nearby vehicle — were detonated. The victims included both civilians and military personnel.

Witnesses say the Ankara explosion could be heard throughout the city, with smoke rising from the blast site.

Turkish officials immediately denounced the Ankara explosion as an act of terrorism. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan canceled a trip to Azerbaijan to deal with the issue and released a statement to the media hours after the attack.

“Our determination to respond in kind to attacks taking place inside and outside our borders is getting stronger with such acts.”

The Ankara explosion has resulted in the arrests of 14 people so far, with more arrests expected. Wednesday’s blast is the second lethal Ankara explosion in four months. In October, over 100 people were killed in a double suicide bombing that targeted a peace march in the Turkish capital.

Thursday, the Turkish military responded to the Ankara explosion by bombing Kurdish militant camps in Iraq. The military action targeted a group of PKK rebels n northern Iraq’s Haftanin region. Turkish military sources claim the camp included a number of senior PKK leaders.

Turkey’s retaliation came as a second explosion rocked a military convoy in southeast Turkey. The blast is said to have killed six people near Diyarbakir.

The Turkish government has blamed Islamic State (IS), the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a banned Kurdish rebel group, and Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Syrian-based Kurdish militia group, for both blasts, claiming the Ankara explosion was carried out by PKK militants along with a Syrian national identified as Salih Neccar who had been in the country since July, 2014, as a refugee. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu made a statement to the press.

“It has been determined with certainty that this attack was carried out by members of the separatist terror organization together with a member of the YPG who infiltrated from Syria.”

He included the Syrian government itself in the blame for the Ankara explosion because of their backing of the Syrian Kurdish militia and appeared to rebuke the U.S. and its allies for their continued support of the YPG.

“Those who directly or indirectly back an organization that is the enemy of Turkey, risk losing the title of being a friend of Turkey.”

The Syrian Democratic Union Party, or YPD, the political wing of the military YPG, has denied any involvement with the Ankara explosion.

The situation represents a point of contention when it comes to the United States and its allies in the coalition that is battling IS in Syria. Even as Turkey regards the PKK and their Syrian affiliates YPG as terrorist groups for their decades long battle to create an independent Kurdish state within Turkey, the U.S. has been fighting IS alongside the YPG in Syria and depends on their military support in the region.

Currently, the Turkish government allows U.S. warplanes the use of Incirlik air base in southern Turkey to launch bomber attacks on Syrian targets. Washington has not yet responded to Turkey’s calls to cease support of YPG.

[Photo by IHA/AP Photo]