ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — A Kurdish rebel suicide bomber detonated an explosives-laden vehicle outside a police headquarters near Turkey's border with Syria Wednesday, killing five other people and wounding dozens.
The state-run Anadolu Agency said the attack killed two female police officers, one of them pregnant, as well as three civilians. A total of 51 people, among them 23 civilians, were wounded in the attack in the town of Midyat, it reported.
The bombing in Mardin province came amid a surge in violence in the country and a day after a car bomb hit a police vehicle in Istanbul, killing 11 people during the morning rush hour. It took place as funerals for the Istanbul victims were underway.
An Interior Ministry official said authorities had strong evidence indicating that the outlawed rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, had carried out both Tuesday's attack in Istanbul and the Wednesday bombing in Mardin.
Asked about the attack in Midyat, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the "murderous PKK organization" was behind it. However, Ibrahim Kalin, the spokesman for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, later said the prime minister had meant that the PKK had carried out the Istanbul attack, adding that it was too early to say for certain who was responsible for the bombing in Midyat.
News reports said the assailant rammed the vehicle into protective concrete blocks surrounding Midyat's main police station located on a street lined with cafeterias, shops and businesses. Television images from the scene showed thick smoke rising from the site of the attack, which destroyed the facade of the police headquarters building and blew out windows of nearby buildings.
The private Dogan news agency said the vehicle was laden with a half-ton of explosives.
As with previous terror attacks, authorities on Wednesday imposed a media gag order, barring the broadcast and publication of graphic images from the aftermath of the Midyat attack and the reporting of details of the police investigation.
Meanwhile, three journalists who travelled to Midyat to cover the bombing were attacked by a group of local residents and hospitalized, according to one of the journalists, Mahmut Bozarslan, and media reports.
"We escaped being lynched. We are in hospital. We are well," Bozarslan tweeted. Bozarslan did not answer calls and the motive of the attack was not immediately clear.
Turkey has been hit by a series of attacks in the past year. PKK rebels have targeted police and military personnel since July, when a fragile peace process between the rebels and the government collapsed. The Islamic State group has also been blamed for a series of deadly bombings in Turkey, which is part of the U.S.-led coalition against IS.
The PKK has waged a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state in a conflict that has claimed tens of thousands of lives. The group is considered a terror organization by Turkey and its allies.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden called Turkey's recently appointed prime minister, Yildirim, to express condolences for the terrorist attacks in Istanbul and Midyat, according to a White House statement.
The leaders "pledged to continue the robust cooperation between the two countries on combatting terrorism."
Anadolu Agency, quoting unnamed security forces, said Turkish warplanes carried out air strikes against PKK targets in northern Iraq and in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeastern province of Diyarbakir on Wednesday. Turkish planes have been regularly conducting cross-border aerial operations against the PKK since last summer.
The agency also said that 22 PKK militants were killed in previous strikes in northern Iraq on Sunday.
An estimated 500 Turkish security personnel have been killed while fighting with the Kurdish rebels since July 2015, according to the military, which claims to have killed 4,900 PKK militants in Turkey and northern Iraq.
Mardin, where government forces are battling Kurkish militants, has endured similar attacks in the past months. In May, three people were killed in a car bombing by Kurdish rebels against a gendarmerie station in Midyat. A soldier was killed and six others were wounded in a car bomb attack against their outpost in April.
Last week, the military announced that it had ended a large-scale operation to flush out Kurdish militants from the nearby Syrian border town of Nusaybin, also in Mardin province.
Josh Lederman in Washington D.C and Dominique Soguel in Istanbul, Turkey contributed reporting.