Turkish authorities confirm Ankara bomber's identity

AP News
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Posted: Feb 23, 2016 2:45 PM

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish authorities on Tuesday confirmed the identity of the suicide bomber who killed 29 people in last week's suicide car bomb attack in Ankara as a Turkish man, the state-run agency reported.

The Turkey-based Kurdish militant group, the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons, or TAK, had claimed responsibility for the Feb. 17 attack, which targeted buses carrying military personnel. It said Abdulbaki Somer — an ethnic Kurd from the eastern Turkish province of Van — had carried out the attack in retaliation for Turkish military operations against militants in southeast Turkey.

The group is an off-shoot of the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.

The state-run Anadolu Agency, quoting unnamed sources from the prosecutor's office, said DNA tests confirmed that Somer, 26, had detonated the bomb. It said he had joined the PKK in 2005 and was based a PKK camp in northern Iraq's Qandil mountains from then to 2014.

The government has dismissed TAK's responsibility claim. Turkey says the attack is the work of a U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish militia group carried out in coordination with the PKK. It has also since stepped up pressure on the United States and other allies to stop supporting the group despite their key role in combating the Islamic State group in Syria.

Last week, the government had identified the bomber as Syrian national Salih Naccar. But a government official said authorities now believe Somer crossed into Turkey from Syria as a refugee, falsely identifying himself as Naccar.

Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said Tuesday that investigators have found evidence of the Syrian Kurdish militia's involvement in the attack, although he did not provide details.

The Health Ministry said a man injured in the attack died of his wounds, raising the death toll to 29. It said 10 other wounded were still hospitalized.

Also Tuesday, police detained three more people suspected of involvement in the bombing, Anadolu said. Fourteen others were charged in connection with the attack over the weekend.

Police in the southeastern city of Van, meanwhile, detained 10 people during a raid on those offering condolences for the bomber, according to Anadolu. The detained included Somer's father and brother, who were being questioned over possible terrorist propaganda charges.