ISTANBUL: Two Turkish soldiers were killed and dozens wounded on Sunday in a suicide attack claimed by Kurdish militants, as Ankara kept up its air campaign against the rebels’ bases in northern Iraq.
Ankara has launched a two-pronged “anti-terror” offensive against the self-styled Islamic State in Syria and PKK militants based in northern Iraq after a series of attacks inside Turkey including a devastating suicide bombing blamed on the IS.
But so far the bombardments have focused far more on the Kurdish rebels — with Turkish official media claiming that 260 suspected PKK members have been killed — and the militants have retaliated inside Turkey.
There is also growing controversy over possible civilian casualties in the Turkish bombings, and the local Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq on Saturday urged the PKK to spare civilians. The suspected PKK suicide bomber drove a tractor laden with two tons of explosives up to the military station in the Dogubayazit district, the official Anatolia news agency reported, quoting the local governor’s office.
Turkey’s Kurdish militants have sought cover in neighbouring northern Iraq where the presence of the PKK has long been tolerated in Iraq’s Kurdish-ruled region. More fighters also crossed into the area from Turkey as part of the 2013 ceasefire. Two soldiers were killed and 31 were wounded, four seriously, the army said. In a statement, the PKK claimed the attack as a “sabotage event”. The soldiers were deployed with the local Jandarma (Gendarmerie), a branch of the army that looks after internal security in Turkey.
Such was the power of the blast that houses in a village several hundred metres (yards) away were hit by debris and several villagers slightly injured, the Dogan news agency said.
PKK militants who took part in the operation also launched ambushes on the roads to prevent medical teams reaching the scene before fleeing in the direction of Mount Ararat, it added.
In a separate incident also blamed on the PKK, one Turkish soldier was killed and seven were wounded when a mine exploded as their convoy was travelling on a road in the Midyat district of Mardin province in southeastern Turkey, the army said.