Turkey de­fi­ant as Kur­dish group claims twin blasts

Kuwait, Amir con­demn bomb­ings

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

A de­fi­ant Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Erdogan yes­ter­day vowed to fight terror “to the end” as a Kur­dish mil­i­tant group claimed twin attacks that ripped through Istanbul, killing 38 peo­ple, mostly po­lice. The blood­shed, which took place late on Saturday, saw a car bomb ex­plod­ing out­side the home sta­dium of foot­ball gi­ants Be­sik­tas and less than a minute later, a sui­cide at­tacker blew him­self up by a group of po­lice at a nearby park.

Most of the dead were po­lice of­fi­cers, who ac­counted for 30 of the vic­tims. Seven civil­ians also died, along with one per­son whose iden­tity was un­clear, of­fi­cials said. Around 150 peo­ple were wounded in the blasts. The car­nage prompted a sharp re­sponse from Erdogan, who vowed Ankara would “fight the scourge of ter­ror­ism right to the end”.

They should know that they will not get away with it ... They will pay a heav­ier price.”

HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ah­mad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah yes­ter­day sent a cable of con­do­lences to Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Erdogan over the ter­ror­ist blasts. In his cable, the Amir prayed for the dead and wished swift re­cov­ery to those in­jured in the at­tack. HH the Amir stressed Kuwait’s strong con­dem­na­tion of such a crim­i­nal act that tar­geted innocent peo­ple and vi­o­lated all heav­enly re­li­gions and hu­man val­ues, voic­ing sup­port of all mea­sures taken by Turkey to re­spond to such ter­ror­ist acts that aim to un­der­mine its se­cu­rity and sta­bil­ity.

The Amir also re­it­er­ated Kuwait’s re­jec­tion of all forms and man­i­fes­ta­tions of ter­ror­ism, while backing the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity’s fight against ter­ror­ism. HH the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ah­mad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and HH the Prime Min­is­ter Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah also sent the Turk­ish pres­i­dent sim­i­lar ca­bles.

The Kuwaiti govern­ment also sharply con­demned the ex­plo­sions. An of­fi­cial source at the foreign min­istry said in a state­ment that Kuwait stands by Turkey and sup­ports its mea­sures to pre­serve its se­cu­rity and sta­bil­ity. The source re­it­er­ated Kuwait’s un­shak­able and prin­ci­pled po­si­tion against all forms and man­i­fes­ta­tions of ter­ror­ism and vi­o­lence. The source also voiced sin­cere con­do­lences to Turkey’s govern­ment and peo­ple over the vic­tims of the bomb­ings, and wished swift re­cov­ery to the in­jured.

The attacks were claimed by the Kur­dis­tan Free­dom Fal­cons (TAK), which is seen as a rad­i­cal off­shoot of the out­lawed Kur­dis­tan Work­ers Party (PKK). “A re­venge squad from TAK car­ried out si­mul­ta­ne­ous attacks out­side Istanbul Voda­fone Arena sta­dium and Macka park at around 10:30 pm lo­cal time (1930 GMT),” said a state­ment posted on TAK’s web­site. “Turk­ish peo­ple are not the di­rect tar­get of TAK,” it said, ac­cus­ing the govern­ment of “fas­cism” against the Kur­dish peo­ple.

The group has claimed three ma­jor attacks in Turkey this year: two in Ankara - one on Feb 17 that left 28 dead, and an­other on March 13 that killed 34 - as well as a car bomb­ing in Istanbul on June 7 which claimed 11 lives. Turk­ish of­fi­cials had ear­lier said ini­tial find­ings pointed to the PKK which has waged a bloody cam­paign against the Turk­ish state since 1984.

In a cer­e­mony for five of the vic­tims at the city’s po­lice head­quar­ters, Erdogan and Prime Min­is­ter Bi­nali Yildirim met with the fam­i­lies, look­ing on silently as the flag­draped coffins were brought in. “Sooner or later we will have our re­venge,” In­te­rior Min­is­ter Su­ley­man Soylu told the mourn­ers. “The arm of the law is long”. Erdogan later chaired an emergency meet­ing of cab­i­net min­is­ters in Istanbul to dis­cuss the sit­u­a­tion. On the streets, peo­ple gath­ered out­side the sta­dium to lay flow­ers, many hold­ing Turk­ish flags and shout­ing “Down with the PKK!” and “Our home­land is in­di­vis­i­ble!” “They won’t be able to di­vide Turkey, they won’t be able to break it into pieces,” one man told AFP, who gave his name only as Muham­mad. But there was also anger. “God curse the PKK!” said one woman mourner in her 50s.

Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Nu­man Kur­tul­mus said the at­tack had tar­geted po­lice. “Ex­perts say at least 300-400 kilo­grammes of ex­plo­sives had been used. There was a pit where the car det­o­nated,” he said on CNN Turk tele­vi­sion. Foren­sic ex­perts were yes­ter­day col­lect­ing ev­i­dence at both the sta­dium and the park, an AFP cor­re­spon­dent said, while mu­nic­i­pal work­ers could be seen clear­ing up the area and re­plac­ing road signs dam­aged in the sta­dium blast. Thir­teen peo­ple have been de­tained over the blasts.

Footage broad­cast shortly af­ter the at­tack showed a car out­side the sta­dium en­gulfed in flames, as well as wrecked po­lice ve­hi­cles, with wit­nesses say­ing the force of the blasts shat­tered win­dows in nearby homes. “I heard two ex­plo­sions in less than one minute, fol­lowed by the sound of gun­shots,” one wit­ness told AFP on con­di­tion of anonymity. The sta­dium is lo­cated on the shores of the Bospho­rus, close to the Ot­toman-era Dolmabahce palace that houses the premier’s of­fice. It is also about a kilo­me­ter from the busy Tak­sim Square, a mag­net for tourists.

Be­sik­tas is one of Istanbul’s most popular foot­ball clubs, and its fans are known for their anti-estab­lish­ment views. They fa­mously played a big role in the 2013 protests against Erdogan, who was prime min­is­ter at the time. In a state­ment, Be­sik­tas vowed to “stand firm against the vile at­tack­ers who will never achieve their goal.”

The twin attacks drew in­ter­na­tional con­do­lences and con­dem­na­tion, with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg de­nounc­ing the blood­shed as “hor­rific” and the US em­bassy in Turkey tweet­ing: “Our hearts and prayers are with the peo­ple of #Istanbul tonight.” Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel spoke with Erdogan by phone, with the two agree­ing to step up anti-terror co­op­er­a­tion. “The chan­cel­lor asked the pres­i­dent to con­vey her sym­pa­thies to the vic­tims’ loved ones and of­fered help, if needed, to care for those who were in­jured,” spokeswoman Ul­rike Dem­mer said in a state­ment. “The chan­cel­lor and the pres­i­dent agreed to in­ten­sify their co­op­er­a­tion in fight­ing ter­ror­ism,” she added, with­out pro­vid­ing de­tails.

Is­rael’s Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu also con­demned the bomb­ings but said he ex­pected Turkey to re­cip­ro­cate when the Jewish state also came un­der at­tack. “Is­rael con­demns all ter­ror­ism in Turkey and ex­pects that Turkey will con­demn all ter­ror­ist attacks in Is­rael,” he said. The two coun­tries re­cently nor­mal­ized ties af­ter a bit­ter six-year diplo­matic row over a Gaza-bound flotilla.—


ISTANBUL: Turk­ish po­lice of­fi­cers carry the coffins of com­rades dur­ing a fu­neral cer­e­mony at Istanbul’s po­lice head­quar­ters yes­ter­day, a day af­ter twin bomb­ings killed 38 peo­ple near a foot­ball sta­dium.

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