The Latest: Kurd leader: Rogue elements may be behind attack

AP News
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Posted: Feb 18, 2016 11:22 AM
The Latest: Kurd leader: Rogue elements may be behind attack

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — The Latest on Turkish airstrikes on Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq and aftermath of Ankara bombing (all times local):

5:40 p.m.

The leader of a Kurdish umbrella organization — which includes the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK — has said he does not know who is behind the suicide car bombing in Ankara that killed 28 people.

However, Cemil Bayik did not rule out the possibility that rogue Kurdish militants, angered by Turkish military operations in the country's southeast, may have been behind the attack Wednesday that targeted buses carrying military members.

Bayik told the pro-Kurdish Firat News: "We don't know who carried out this act. But we know that previously such acts have been carried out in retaliation for massacres in Kurdistan. It is possible that those who did it will soon explain why they did it."

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu says the attack was carried out by a Syrian who belongs to a Syrian Kurdish militia group, in collaboration with the outlawed PKK.

Turkey's military has been conducting large-scale military operations against PKK-linked militants in the southeast, operations that it says has killed hundreds of militants. Human rights groups have raised serious concerns over Turkey's military operations, which have led to civilian deaths as well as displacing tens of thousands of people.

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3:55 p.m.

A coalition of Arab and Kurdish groups in Syria has condemned the bombing in the Turkish capital of Ankara that killed 28 people and wounded others.

The predominantly Kurdish Syria Democratic Forces has been a main force in fighting the Islamic State group in Syria.

The SDF statement was read Thursday by the coalition's spokesman Talal Sillo and posted on their Facebook page.

SDF called upon the international community to intensify its efforts in fighting terrorism in order "to uproot it."

Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said earlier Thursday that a Syrian national with links to Syrian Kurdish militia, YPG, carried out the suicide bombing in Ankara that targeted military personnel.

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3:10 p.m.

A Turkish Foreign Ministry official say the ambassadors of the five permanent U.N. Security Council member states have been invited to the ministry separately and are being briefed on the attack in Ankara which killed 28 people.

The five permanent members are Britain, China, France, Russia and the U.S.

The ambassadors of Germany and the Netherlands as well as the head of the European Union delegation were also invited on Thursday, the ministry official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because she wasn't authorized to speak publicly on the issue.

Turkey's leaders say a Syrian national who was a member of Syrian Kurdish militia group carried out the suicide car bombing on Wednesday evening in collaboration with Turkey's own Kurdish rebel group, the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.

Turkey labels both groups as terrorist organizations and is pressuring allies to stop backing the Syrian Kurdish militia group. The Syrian Kurdish militia, however, are a key force in the fight against the Islamic State group.

--By Suzan Fraser in Ankara

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1:45 p.m.

The main Kurdish militia in Syria says it has no links to the bombing in the Turkish capital, adding that accusations by Turkey's prime minister are "lies" aimed at paving a way for a Turkish attack on Kurdish areas in Syria.

The People's Protection Units, or YPG, says its main role has been to protect "our people from barbaric gangs" in Syria, referring to the Islamic State group and al-Qaida's affiliate.

Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said earlier Thursday that his country will retaliate against YPG, whom he held responsible for the bomb attack in Ankara that killed 28 people and wounded dozens.

The statement said YPG is not engaged in any military activity against neighboring states or other forces.

It said that despite Turkey's "provocations and attacks" on Kurdish areas in Syria, it has never retaliated against Turkey.

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1:15 p.m.

The German government says Chancellor Angela Merkel has spoken with Turkey's leaders to offer her condolences after the bombing that targeted military personnel in Ankara killed 28 people.

Merkel's office said she spoke Wednesday evening with Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Thursday morning with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

It said that Merkel strongly condemned the attack and assured both leaders that "Germany stands in solidarity at Turkey's side in the fight against terrorism."

Merkel has been working closely with Turkey lately in an effort to reduce the flow of migrants to Europe. Davutoglu canceled a planned trip to Brussels to meet with leaders from several EU nations following the bombing.

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12:40 p.m.

Turkey's president says that despite denials, evidence obtained by Turkish authorities points to Syrian Kurdish militias as being behind the car bombing in Ankara that killed 28 people.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking to reporters Thursday during a visit to the chief of military staff's office, said the attack would show the international community the strong links that exist between Turkish rebel group the PKK, and the Syrian Kurdish militia groups.

Turkey insists that the Syrian militias and the PKK are the same and both are terror groups. It has been pressing its ally, the United States, to recognize the Syrian Kurdish forces as terrorists. The U.S. already lists the PKK as a terror group.

But Washington has relied heavily on the Syrian Kurds in the battle against the Islamic State group and has rejected Turkish pressure.

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12:20 p.m.

Swedish police say they are investigating an explosion late Wednesday in a Turkish association in southwestern Stockholm that caused "major damage." There were no injuries because the association was closed at the time.

Police spokesman Lars Bystrom says no arrests have been made, adding police couldn't immediately say whether it was linked to a bombing in Ankara that killed 28 people.

Bystrom said Thursday "we have been in touch" with Sweden's security police about the blast in Fittja, a suburb with a large immigrant population. He declined to elaborate.

The blast came after a man was seriously wounded when shot during a pro-Kurdish demonstration in Fittja on Saturday.

Bystrom said "it was very hard to say" whether it was linked to the Wednesday evening blast.

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11:45 a.m.

Turkey's state-run news agency says six soldiers have died in a Kurdish rebel bomb attack in southeast Turkey a day after a suicide blast killed 28 people in Ankara.

Anadolu Agency said Thursday that the rebels detonated a bomb on a road linking the cities of Diyarbakir and Bingol as a military vehicle was passing by.

Another soldier was seriously wounded in the attack, which came a day after the car bombing in the Turkish capital that targeted military personnel.

The PKK has been fighting Turkey for Kurdish autonomy since 1984. The conflict reignited in the summer after the collapse of a fragile peace process.

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11.30 a.m.

The leader of the main Syrian Kurdish group has denied that his group is behind the Turkey blasts and warns Ankara against taking Syria ground action.

Salih Muslim told The Associated Press from his base in Europe Thursday that the Turkish accusations are "totally rejected."

He also says that the blast in Ankara that killed around 28 people is similar to bombings carried out in the past by the Islamic State group.

"We have no link to these bombings and with what is happening inside Turkey," he says.

He says that any Turkish ground action in Syria will be confronted by a coalition of Kurdish and Arab fighters

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11 a.m.

Turkey's prime minister says his country will retaliate against a Kurdish rebel group he has held responsible for the attack in Ankara that killed 28 people and wounded dozens of others.

Ahmet Davutoglu also told reporters Thursday that Syria's government, which he accused of backing Syrian Kurdish militias, is also to blame. Wednesday's blast in Ankara targeted buses carrying military personnel.

In an apparent reference to the U.S., Davutoglu called on allies to stop its support for the Syrian Kurdish group.

Turkey regards the Syrian Democratic Union Party, and its military wing, the People's Protection Units as terrorists because of their affiliation to Turkey's outlawed Kurdish rebel group. The Kurdish militia, however, has been fighting the Islamic State group, alongside the United States.

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10:40 a.m.

Turkey's prime minister says a Syrian national with links to Syrian Kurdish militia carried out the suicide bombing in Ankara that targeted military personnel and killed at least 28 people.

Ahmet Davutoglu said Thursday that Turkey's Kurdish rebels collaborated with the Syrian man to carry out the attack.

Davutoglu said: "The attack was carried out by the PKK together with a person who sneaked into Turkey from Syria," referring to the Kurdistan Workers' Party, known as the PKK.

The prime minister said authorities had detained nine people in connection with the attack.

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10:15 a.m.

Turkey's military says its jets hit Kurdish rebel positions across the border in northern Iraq, following a suicide bombing that targeted military personnel in Ankara killed 28 people.

The military said Thursday the warplanes struck the region of Haftanin in northern Iraq, targeting a group of some 60-70 rebels of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. It said the raids were conducted on Wednesday night. The military said the group included a number of senior PKK leaders.

Turkey's air force has been striking PKK positions in northern Iraq since a fragile peace process with the group collapsed in July.

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9:35 a.m.

Turkish media reports say a Syrian national was behind the attack in Ankara that killed at least 28 people and wounded dozens of others.

Yeni Safak, a newspaper close to the government, said Thursday that the man who detonated the car bomb Wednesday that targeted buses carrying military personnel was identified from his fingerprints. It said he had been registered as a refugee in Turkey.

Pro-government Sabah newspaper said the man was linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.

A government official couldn't confirm the reports.

The explosion occurred during evening rush hour in the heart of Ankara, in an area close to parliament and armed forces headquarters and lodgings.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility although suspicion fell on the PKK and the Islamic State group.