Ankara bombings came as Kurdish forces prepare to advance on ISIS stronghold

Following yesterday’s bombing in Ankara, Bloomberg reports: No one immediately claimed responsibility for the deadliest terrorist attacks in Turkey’s recent history, though suspicion quickly turned to Islamic State. The blasts on Saturday targeted a march called to urge an end to violence between the government and Kurdish militants. In the wake of the attack, Kurdish fighters declared a unilateral cease-fire, which they said they would honor as long as they are not attacked.

The carnage in Ankara, the Turkish capital, came as U.S.-allied Kurdish forces affiliated with the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, were preparing to advance toward Islamic State’s self-declared capital of Raqqa in Syria, according to Nihat Ali Ozcan, who studies the Kurdish conflict at the Economic Policy Research Foundation in Ankara.

“Daesh struck at the PKK in Ankara before a Kurdish offensive on Raqqa,” Ozcan said by phone, using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State. “Turkey has become the battleground in a growing war between the PKK and Daesh.” [Continue reading…]

Simon Tisdall notes: Many in Turkey accuse Erdoğan of deliberately fuelling a reviving conflict with militant Kurdish groups, including the outlawed PKK, ‎in order to scare voters into supporting his law-and-order, security-first platform in the coming elections. If he succeeds, it is argued, he will seize more powers for the presidency and promote himself as a sort of modern-day Sublime Porte. Thus, it is suggested, the last thing Erdoğan really wants at this juncture is a Kurdish peace. [Continue reading…]

Reuters reports: Government officials made clear that despite alarm over the attack on a rally of pro-Kurdish activists and civic groups, there would be no postponement of November polls Erdogan hopes can restore an overall majority for the AK Party he founded.

Thousands of people gathered near the scene of the attack at Ankara’s main railway station, many accusing Erdogan of stirring nationalist sentiment by his pursuit of a military campaign against Kurdish militants, a charge Ankara vehemently rejects.

“Murderer Erdogan”, “murderer police”, the crowd chanted in Sihhiye square, as riot police backed by water cannon vehicles blocked a main highway leading to the district where parliament and government buildings are located.

The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), a major presence at Saturday’s march and holding seats in parliament, said police attacked its leaders and members as they tried to leave carnations at the scene. Some were hurt in the melee, it said in a statement. [Continue reading…]

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