- President Erdogan promises to `bring terrorism to its knees'
- Ankara blast was 200 meters from prime minister's office
Turkish warplanes struck Kurdish militants in northern Iraq hours after a suicide car bomb killed at least 37 people in the capital, Ankara, drawing vows of swift retaliation from the government.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, whose office is just 200 yards (meters) from the blast site, said the government was close to identifying the group responsible for the attack Sunday, promising “the heaviest punishment” for perpetrators. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged to bring terrorism “to its knees.” The lira dropped on Monday more than any other emerging-market currency after the rand.
The explosion was the third to hit the capital in five months, highlighting the government’s struggle to prevent regional instability and violence in the southeast from spilling into key cities. Less than a month ago, at least 30 people were killed in another car-bombing in Ankara, claimed by separatist Kurdish group TAK. Islamic State militants hit the city’s main train station in October, killing more than 100 civilians who had gathered for a peace rally.
“In 2016, with a combination of regional conflict as well as threats from Islamic State and Kurdish militants in the southeast, Turkey is increasingly seen as part of the Middle East rather than an island of security outside of it,” Jonathan Friedman, an assistant director at global risk consultant Stroz Friedberg, said by e-mail.
Nearly a dozen warplanes pounded positions of the Kurdish PKK rebel group in the Mount Qandil and Gara regions in northern Iraq, according to state-run Anadolu news agency, citing the military chief of staff. AHaber television said 18 targets were hit.
The lira weakened for the first time in five days, slipping 0.5 percent to 2.8829 per dollar as of 9:26 a.m. in Istanbul, bringing its decline this year to 1.2 percent.
Erdogan and Davutoglu both blamed attacks on instability in the region that they said made Turkey the victim of various “terrorist” groups.
Preliminary evidence from the blast site and other intelligence carried the fingerprints of an armed group whose name would be announced once the investigation is concluded, Davutoglu said shortly after the explosion.
TAK, blamed for the Feb. 17 bombing of a bus carrying military personnel, has pledged to stage more attacks across Turkey in response to the government’s war against the Kurdish PKK group. Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union classify the PKK as a terrorist organization.
Two days ago, the U.S. Embassy in Ankara warned of a terrorist plot against Turkish government buildings and lodgings in the city’s Bahcelievler area, citing what it described as specific information. Sunday’s attack took place in Guvenpark, in the Kizilay area.
The U.S. condemned the attack, saying it remains committed to “combating the shared threat of terrorism” with NATO ally Turkey, according to an e-mailed statement by the State Department.
Sunday’s blast occurred near a bus station around 7 p.m. local time, blowing out the windows of cars and buildings hundreds of feet from the site. Health Minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu said more than 70 people were injured, with 15 in serious condition.