By Seyhmus Cakan
MIDYAT, Turkey (Reuters) – A car bomb attack by Kurdish militants on a police station in southeastern Turkey killed two police officers and one civilian in Midyat and wounded more than 30 people on Wednesday, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said, a day after a bomb targeting a police bus in Istanbul killed 11.
The explosion in the town of Midyat destroyed the facade of a five-storey block, damaged other buildings, and sent a plume of thick black smoke rising over the area. Hospital sources said police and civilians were among the wounded.
Clashes broke out between security forces and Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants in Midyat as the attack took place, security sources said.
The town is in Mardin, a province bordering Syria and part of Turkey’s largely Kurdish southeast, where the PKK has waged a three-decade insurgency for Kurdish autonomy. Violence has spiraled since a ceasefire collapsed almost a year ago.
The unrest has been fueled by the war in Syria. Turkey says the PKK – considered a terrorist organization by Ankara, the European Union and the United States – has deep ties to the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia fighting just across the border.
The groups do not deny links. The PKK founded the YPG as a Syrian organization a decade ago and both are inspired by Abdullah Ocalan, who led the PKK from inception and lived in Syria shortly before his capture in 1999.
Ambulances rushed to the scene of the blast and reinforcements from the security forces were being sent to the area from around Mardin province, security sources said.
“My nation should know that the state of the Turkish Republic is strong. It is one and united no matter what the terrorist organization does,” Yildirim said in Istanbul, after visiting those wounded in the Istanbul bus attack Tuesday.
“Whether they carry out suicide bombings in our cities, whatever methods they use, they can never tire this nation and can never pull us back from this honorable fight.”
There has been no claim of responsibility for the Istanbul attack in which a car bomb ripped through a police bus during the morning rush hour. But Kurdish militants have staged similar attacks on the security forces, including in Istanbul and the capital Ankara.
Security concerns were already hitting tourism and investor confidence in Turkey. Wars in neighboring Syria and Iraq have fostered a home-grown Islamic State network blamed for a series of suicide bombings, while Kurdish militants have increasingly struck beyond their usual targets in the south-east.
Yildirim said six police and five civilians were among the dead from Tuesday’s attack, which he said had targeted riot police units responsible for security at the nearby Istanbul University as they changed shifts.
“The murderer is the PKK organization. This hasn’t surprised us, but the circle around them is slowly narrowing. Both in the cities and in rural areas, we will continue to fight them decisively,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Daren Butler in Istanbul; Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Alison Williams)