A car bomb killed 11 police officers and injured almost 80 at a checkpoint in southeastern Turkey on Friday.
The Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, a banned Kurdish political party, claimed responsibility for the attack in the city of Cizre, on the border with Syria and some 20 miles from the Iraqi border. The bomb nearly leveled a nearby police station as well. Attackers were reportedly stopped at the gate ahead of the explosion, and a firefight followed, according to Al-Jazeera.
“No terrorist organization can take the Turkish Republic hostage,” Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told reporters in Istanbul. “We will give these scoundrels every response they deserve.”
Cizre, a majority Kurdish town, has seen a curfew and sporadic violence since a ceasefire between the government and the PKK failed in July 2015. The BBC reports:
The UN and human rights organisations have demanded an investigation into allegations that more than 100 people were burned to death while sheltering in basements in Cizre during one of those curfews.
The attack comes just as the Turkish military makes its most forceful entry into Syria amid that country’s ongoing civil war. Elements of the Turkish army were reportedly resistant to involvement, but since a failed coup, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has purged the military and asserted greater control. The Syria offensive is reportedly driven not only by a desire to fight the Islamic State, but also to undercut Kurdish fighters who have made progress against the radical group. The New York Times reports:
Still, thwarting the Islamic State was not the only objective of the Turks, nor even its primary one. Turkish officials have made little secret that the main purpose of the operation was to ensure that Kurdish militias did not consolidate control over an area west of the Euphrates that they had seized during a United States-backed campaign against the Islamic State in the city of Manbij, south of Jarabulus.