Police Clash With Militants in Istanbul as Violence Flares

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Istanbul Violence Flares as Police Clash With Militants

In an escalation of the violence spreading in Turkey since July, security forces in Istanbul exchanged fire with unidentified gunmen Monday hours after a car bomb targeted a police station.

Two gunmen and a senior police officer were killed in the Sultanbeyli district, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported. Ten people were injured earlier in the attack against the police station in the same area, where support for the Islamic-rooted AK Party runs high. Separately, two assailants opened fire at the U.S. consulate compound in the city. The shooting was blamed on the leftist DHKP-C militant group.

Violence in Turkey has surged since a suicide bombing blamed on Islamic State killed at least 32 people in the southeastern province of Sanliurfa last month. Turkish warplanes have since struck Kurdish PKK militants, classified as terrorists by Turkey and the U.S., as well as Islamic State fighters in Syria. The group has responded by stepping up assaults on security forces.

“The attacks in Istanbul amount to a strong signal that the government’s crackdown on militant groups, including the PKK and the leftist DHKP-C, will not go unpunished,” said Nihat Ali Ozcan, an analyst at the Economic Policy Research Foundation in Ankara.

Ability to Strike

The bombing of the police station “clearly shows that the militants have the ability to strike at the heart of Turkey’s largest city,” Ozcan said.

The escalation in violence over the past three weeks has rattled investors. The lira has weakened 5 percent since mid-July, making it the world’s fourth-worst performing currency against the dollar. The yield on two-year government bonds climbed 40 basis points to about 10 percent.

The DHKP-C claimed responsibility for a 2013 suicide attack on the U.S. embassy in Ankara, in which a Turkish guard was killed. Police sent a bomb squad to the consulate as a precaution, CNN-Turk said. The mission said on Twitter that it will suspend public services until further notice.

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The unrest comes as Turkish politicians struggle to form a government after inconclusive elections in June. The AK Party, co-founded by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has accused the pro-Kurdish HDP party, which won an unprecedented 13 percent of the national vote in June, of backing the militants, a charge the group denies.

PKK militants have focused their attacks against security forces since July in southeast Turkey. The turmoil has undermined peace talks aimed at ending the group’s three-decade insurgency.

Anadolu said Kurdish gunmen killed four police officers and wounded another in a roadside bombing near the southeastern Turkish town of Silopi on Monday.

One soldier was killed and seven were wounded in a separate attack on a military helicopter in the southeastern Sirnak province, Hurriyet newspaper reported.

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