Turkey bombs Kurdish rebels after suicide blast in capital before president’s speech

People in fatigues stand near vehicles on a street
Turkish security forces cordon off an area after an explosion in Ankara on Oct. 1, 2023. A suicide bomber detonated an explosive device hours before parliament was scheduled to reopen after a summer recess.
(Ali Unal / Associated Press)

The Turkish Defense Ministry says its warplanes have carried out raids on suspected Kurdish rebel targets in northern Iraq on Sunday after a suicide attack on a government building in the Turkish capital.

A ministry statement said about 20 targets of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, were “destroyed” in the aerial operation, including caves, shelters and depots.

Earlier, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive device near an entrance of the Interior Ministry, wounding two police officers. A second assailant was killed in a shootout with police Sunday, the interior minister said.


A news agency close to the PKK said the group has claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing.

The attack occurred hours before Turkey’s parliament was set to reopen after its three-month summer recess with an address by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Two police officers were slightly wounded in the bombing near the ministry entrance, Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said on X, formerly Twitter. Assailants who arrived in a light commercial vehicle carried out the attack, he said.

“Our heroic police officers, through their intuition, resisted the terrorists as soon as they got out of the vehicle,” Yerlikaya later told reporters. “One of them blew himself up, while the other one was shot in the head before he had a chance to blow himself up.”

“Our fight against terrorism, their collaborators, the [drug] dealers, gangs and organized crime organizations will continue with determination,” he said.

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Oct. 1, 2023


The interior minister did not say whom he believed was behind the attack. However, ANF, a news agency close to the banned PKK, reported Sunday night that the group had claimed responsibility for the blast.

Leftist extremists and the militant group Islamic State have also carried out deadly attacks throughout Turkey in the past.

Erdogan gave his speech in parliament as planned and called the attack “the last stand of terrorism.”

“The scoundrels who targeted the peace and security of the citizens could not achieve their goals and they never will,” he said.

The president reiterated his government’s aim to create a 20-mile safe zone along the border with Syria to secure Turkey’s southern border from attacks.

Turkey has launched several incursions into northern Syria since 2016 to drive away Islamic State militants and a Kurdish militia group, known by the initials YPG, and controls swaths of territory in the area.

Ankara views the YPG as an extension of the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. The PKK has waged an insurgency against Turkey since 1984. Tens of thousands of people have died in the conflict.

Last year, a bomb blast on a bustling pedestrian street in Istanbul left six people dead, including two children. More than 80 others were wounded. Turkey blamed the attack on the PKK and the YPG.

The state-run Anadolu Agency reported that the two attackers Sunday had seized the vehicle in the central province of Kayseri from a veterinarian. The pro-government daily Sabah reported that they shot the veterinarian in the head and threw his body into a ditch by the side of the road. They then drove the vehicle to Ankara, roughly 200 miles away.

Security camera recordings on Sunday showed the vehicle stopping in front of the ministry, with a man exiting it and rushing toward the entrance of the building before blowing himself up. A second man is seen following him.

Television video showed bomb squads working near a vehicle in the area, which is not far from the Turkish Grand National Assembly and other government buildings. A rocket launcher could be seen lying near the vehicle.

Turkish authorities later imposed a temporary blackout on images from the scene.

Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc said an investigation has been launched into the “terror attack.”

“These attacks will in no way hinder Turkey’s fight against terrorism,” he wrote on X. “Our fight against terrorism will continue with more determination.”

Police cordoned off access to the city center and increased security measures, warning citizens that they would be conducting controlled explosions of suspicious packages.

The two wounded officers were being treated in a hospital and were not in serious condition, Yerlikaya said.

Egypt, which has normalized ties with Turkey after a decade of tensions, condemned the attack. A terse statement from the Foreign Ministry expressed solidarity with Turkey.

The U.S. Embassy in Ankara and other foreign missions also issued messages condemning the attack.

Erdogan in his speech did not provide any indication as to when Turkey’s Parliament may ratify Sweden’s membership in NATO.

Stockholm, along with Finland, applied for membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year. Although Finland has since joined, Turkey blocked Sweden’s membership in the military alliance, accusing it of not doing enough to restrict groups such as the PKK from operating on its soil. In a posting on X, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said Stockholm “strongly condemns today’s terrorist attack in Ankara.”

“We reaffirm our commitment to long-term cooperation with Türkiye in combating terrorism and wish for quick and full recovery of the ones injured,” he wrote, using the Turkish government’s preferred spelling for the country.