Deadly Car Bomb close to Diyarbakır Bus terminal: A new season in PKK tactics?

*Source: Hürriyet ©

*Source: Hürriyet ©

Seven police officers were killed and 27 individuals, including 14 civilians, were injured in a car bomb attack yesterday in the southeastern city of Diyarbakır, Turkey. The car bomb, which was remotely detonated, went off around 17.00 on the Şanlıurfa highway close to the city’s central bus terminal.

The car bomb was targeting a police vehicle transporting special operations officers. However, the attack also injured a number of civilians and caused considerable damage to nearby vehicles and residences, as well as shattering the windows of the bus terminal.

The Diyarbakır Attorney General has begun an investigation into the attack, however according to a Doğan Haber Ajansı (DHA) report, it is believed to have been carried out by the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) and police are reportedly already conducting an operation to “neutralize the terrorists” responsible for the attack.

Attacks targeting police officers and security forces in the primarily Kurdish east have become increasingly frequent since the Turkish government began its large scale operations across Kurdish majority urban centres in early December last year. The government’s operations have been aimed at uprooting the PKK’s urban strongholds in the eastern provinces and controversial round-the-clock month long curfews have been a controversial aspect of the government’s tactics in combating the PKK.

Although PKK attacks have largely and consistently targeted government forces, Thursday’s attack marks an escalation in the scale of these attacks. The fact that the attack was organized near the central bus terminal and the resulting civilian injuries suggests that we may be entering a new season of PKK tactics closer the tactics of the group’s off-shoot organization, the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK)

TAK claimed responsibility for two recent bombing attacks in the capital city of Ankara. The February 17 bombing claimed the lives of 28 people, mostly police officers, and the March 13 bombing attack claimed the lives of 37, who were predominantly civilians. The TAK claimed responsibility for both Ankara attacks, noting that police officers were the primary targets of the attacks but also indicating that civilians may often be “the inevitable casualties of war.”

The PKK claims that TAK is in no way connected to their organization, and that TAK broke away from the PKK because they opted for more radical tactics. However, the recent Diyarbakır attack may indicate that the PKK is increasingly more willing to consider civilians as the “inevitable casualties of war”, despite the group’s insistence that they focus exclusively on police and military targets.

The escalatory scale of Thursday’s attack may also be connected to an announcement made one day prior by the commander of PKK’s guerrilla forces Murat Karayılan. The commander released a statement via long distance radio to PKK troops, indicating that the arrival of spring would mean increased activity for the organization and promised urban forces reinforcements from the PKKs headquarters in the Kandil mountains.

“Now we have entered spring; guerrilla forces need to support [the urban resistance]. The HPG must now intervene from the mountains and support the Kurdish youths who organised as the Civilian Defence Units (YPS) and mounted a legitimate, civilian self-defence resistance. Our people expect this from us.”

The arrival of spring means the thawing of the snowy terrain in the Kandil mountains, which will make the transport of arms reinforcements and troops easier for the PKK as well increase coordination between the PKK headquarters and their urban wings.

Karayılan’s statements seem to indicate that the PKK is ready to step up its combat against Turkish government forces after a long winter, which featured large scale government operations against urban PKK strongholds and month long curfews that claimed the lives of many Kurdish civilians, grievances which the PKK seems compelled to respond to. Thursday’s attack may be the first indication that we are entering a new, intensified and radical season in PKK operations and that there may be more attacks yet to come.

Benjamin Bilgen

Bilgen Benjamin, “Deadly Car Bomb close to Diyarbakır Bus terminal: A new season in PKK tactics?”, Independent Turkey, 1 April 2016, London: Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey (Research Turkey). Original link: http://researchturkey.org/?p=11248

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