Turkish police have detained nearly a thousand people, including dozens that are allegedly linked with Kurdish militants, days after a suicide bomb attack near the Parliament rocked Ankara.
The Kurdistan Workers' Party, also known as PKK, had claimed responsibility for the suicide blast in Ankara on Sunday, in which one attacker was killed in a shootout while two police officers were injured. The PKK is designated as a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
In a sweep targeting people with alleged links to Kurdish groups, the Turkish police detained 67 people across the country during raids conducted in 16 provinces. Out of these detained people, 55 are suspected to be members of PKK's "intelligence structure", said Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya.
The other 12 people, alleged to be full-time members of the PKK, were detained in a separate operation across five provinces, Yerlikaya further said. At least 928 people suspected of holding unlicensed firearms or having links with smuggling of firearms were rounded up. It is not clear if the 900-plus people are connected to the PKK.
The Turkish Interior Minister also said that 840 firearms were confiscated during the operation. The bombing on Sunday took place hours before the Turkish Parliament was due to reopen after a three-month summer recess with an address by Turkish President Erdogan.
Airstrikes on Kurdish bases in Iraq
The Turkish government, led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, also launched retaliatory airstrikes on suspected Kurdish militant targets in northern Iraq shortly after the suicide attack, said Turkey's Defence Ministry.
The Ministry said that around 20 targets of the proscribed terrorist group - Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) - were destroyed in the aerial operation and a large number of the group's operatives were "neutralised" in the strikes. One of the attackers involved in the suicide attack was identified as part of the terrorist group.
The footage from a security camera showed visuals of the “terrorist attack”. The explosion was so powerful that it was heard several kilometres away from the spot of the incident. Police recovered plastic explosives, hand grenades and a rocket launcher at the site, according to a ministry statement.
In his scheduled address in the Turkish Parliament, Erdogan said that the attack was "the last stand of terrorism". "The scoundrels who targeted the peace and security of the citizens could not achieve their goals and they never will," he added.
Turkey has conducted several cross-border offensives against the PKK in northern Iraq. It has also launched incursions into northern Syria since 2016 to drive away the Islamic State group and a Kurdish militia group known as YPG, which controls some parts of the area.
The PKK and YPG were alleged to be responsible for a bomb attack at a crowded pedestrian avenue in Istanbul in November last year, killing six people and injuring dozens.
(with AP inputs)