Turkish air strikes on Kurdish PKK rebels as mourning continues

  • 12 October 2015
  • From the section Europe
Media captionCrowds gathered in Ankara for a memorial as Turkey started three days of mourning

The Turkish air force has pounded Kurdish militants a day after a deadly bomb attack on a rally for peace in the capital Ankara.

Planes hit Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) targets in both the south-east and over the border in northern Iraq.

Saturday's twin bombing in Ankara killed at least 95 people, making it the deadliest such attack ever.

Security sources say they suspect the so-called Islamic State (IS) group was behind the attack.

The air force struck after the government rejected a new ceasefire announced by the PKK on Saturday.

Tensions in Turkey were already high, with a general election looming on 1 November.

The governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost its overall majority in June after gains by the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP), which was involved in Saturday's rally.


Image copyright Reuters

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PKK positions were destroyed in the Metina and Zap areas of northern Iraq in Sunday's air strikes, the Turkish military said.

On Saturday, the air force targeted the PKK in Turkey's Diyarbakir province. Forty-nine people were reported killed in the strikes, but these figures could not be verified independently.

"The PKK ceasefire means nothing for us," one senior Turkish security official told Reuters news agency. "The operations will continue without a break."

The government has furiously denied opposition suggestions it was involved in the Ankara bomb attacks itself.

HDP leader Selahattin Demirtas accused the government of failing to fully investigate earlier attacks on political rallies.

"The state which gets information about the bird that flies, and every flap of its wing, was not able to prevent a massacre in the heart of Ankara," he said.

According to the HDP, the true death toll from Saturday is at least 128.

The Turkish authorities believe two suicide bombers struck at the rally on Saturday.

Two senior security officials who spoke to Reuters said the initial signs were that IS was to blame.

"All signs indicate that the attack may have been carried out by Isil [IS]," one of the unnamed sources said. "We are completely focused on Isil."

Funerals

Three days of mourning began on Sunday.

In Istanbul, hundreds of mourners at the funeral of one victim, Kubra Meltem Mollaoglu, chanted, "The killer government will be held accountable for its crimes!"

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Grief overcame mourners at the funeral of Korkmaz Tedik in Ankara
Image copyright EPA
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Family and friends bereaved by the bombers waited outside a morgue in Ankara
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Police used water cannon on protesters in Diyarbakir

Thousands of people gathered in the centre of Ankara to remember the victims.

There was a clear sense of anger towards the government, with people blaming it for security failures, the BBC's Selin Girit reports.

In the south-eastern city of Diyarbakir, police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse people protesting about the Ankara bombing.

Outside Ankara's forensic morgue, families and friends of victims waited for the bodies of their loved ones.

"Everyone came here to defend peace," Umit, whose sister died in the attack, told the AFP news agency.

Another mourner outside the morgue, Havva, said: "Those who do not believe in brotherhood, those who don't believe in equality of the people of this country, are the ones who provoked what we saw yesterday in Ankara."

One of the victims has been identified as 70-year-old Meryem Bulut, a member of the Saturday Mothers group, who have protested about their missing sons since the 1990s.


The victims

Turkey is mourning the deaths of at least 95 people. These are just a few of those who lost their lives, clockwise from top left:

  • Elif Kanlioglu: A 20-year old student in her second year of university, who loved studying foreign languages.
  • Yilmaz Elmascan: Described by a friend as a peace-loving man, who got married last year. His wife is also said to have been killed in the attack.
  • Sebnem Yurtman: Studied at Ankara university, and later in Adana. She was described as "full of life".
  • Mesut Mak: He was a member of an agriculture and forestry union. He had a daughter.

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