Gaziantep bomb suspect linked to Islamic State

By Independent Turkey

Source: Murat Sezer/ Reuters

Source: Murat Sezer/ Reuters

Police are searching for an Islamic State (IS) militant suspected to be responsible for Sunday’s car bomb attack outside police headquarters in Gaziantep, close to the Syrian border. Gaziantep governer Ali Yerlikaya told reporters that the attack killed two police officers, and injured 19 security personnel and four civilians.

Intelligence gathered on Saturday April 30 warned of a possible attack. Police were ordered not to gather in front of headqaurters for deployment ahead of May 1 demonstrations, which likely reduced the number of casualties significantly. Some reports told of gunfire before the explosion, which occurred at around 9:30am local time, however this is yet to be confirmed.

A security source told France24 that the suspect’s family home was raided and his father detained for DNA testing. Gaziantep is known to have a number of IS cells. It is a central meeting point for jihadists travelling through Turkey to join IS, which controls the territory just over the border in Syria.

The attack marks the latest development in a series of IS attacks in Turkey, including two suicide attacks in Istanbul. In recent months police have conducted raids on suspected militants in Gaziantep. In April security forces arrested two militants belived to be planning further attacks in Turkish cities.

Gaziantep is also host to a large Syrian refugee population. The city has become increasingly embroiled in the ongoing battle between Turkey, its NATO allies, and the so-called Islamic State. Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin reported that Gaziantep is also a hotspot for the trade in cultural artefacts looted from Syria and Iraq, and smuggled through Turkey for sale on the black market.

Sunday’s bombing became yet another in a string of attacks on security forces over the weekend. In Dicle, late April 30, one member of the gendarmerie was killed and 26 others wounded in a suspected car bomb attack by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). On May 1, three soldiers were killed and 14 wounded in a PKK attack in the southeastern city of Nusaybin. Also on May 1, an army captain was killed by the PKK during an early-morning operation in Şırnak’s Ismetpaşa neighborhood.

The Turkish armed forces reported Saturday April 30 raids conducted against PKK positions in northern Iraq during the previous night. Targets in Kandil, Hakkurk, and Avasin were reportedly destroyed.

Conflict on this scale has not been seen since the 1990s, when Turkey was fighting in Syria, northern Iraq, and with the PKK in Turkey. Attacks against Turkish civilians and security personnel claimed by IS and the PKK, the Turkish Armed Forces’ operations in Syria and northern Iraq, tensions with Russia and the ailing Turkish economy together mean that Turkey is fighting a war on multiple fronts — a war that is spilling over onto its own territory at a concerning rate.

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