Istanbul: Eleven Turkish police officers were killed and 78 people injured today in a suicide truck bombing by suspected Kurdish rebels, three days into a two- pronged Turkish offensive against jihadists and Kurdish militia in neighbouring Syria.
The early morning blast almost completely destroyed the police headquarters in the southeastern town of Cizre, just north of the Syrian border.
“At 6:45 am (0915 IST), a suicide attack with a vehicle laden with explosives was carried out by the PKK terror group on the building of anti-riot police,” the provincial governor’s office said in a statement.
Eleven police officers were killed and 78 people injured, three of them civilians, the statement added.
Health Minister Recep Akdag said four people were in critical condition.
The explosion went off hours after the Turkish military shelled positions held by Kurdish militia inside Syria.
Turkey says its three-day-old operation in Syria – its biggest to date in its war-torn neighbour – is aimed both at Islamic State (IS) jihadists and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia leading the fight against IS in the area.
Ankara has labelled the YPG, which has links to Turkey’s outlawed PKK, as a terror group bent on carving out an autonomous Kurdish region in Syria on the Turkish border.
The blast in Cizre tore the facade off the four-storey police headquarters, sending up clouds of thick black smoke. Adjacent buildings were also badly damaged.
The state-run Anadolu news agency said the bomb went off 50 metres away from the building at a control post.
Cizre, a majority Kurdish town, has borne the brunt of renewed violence between the outlawed PKK and government forces since the collapse of a ceasefire last year.
Turkish security forces have been hit by near daily attacks by the PKK since the two-and-a-half year truce collapsed, leaving hundreds of police officers and soldiers dead.
The latest bombing came at a critical moment, with hundreds of Turkish forces and dozens of tanks deployed inside Syria.
Turkey today sent four more tanks over the border, said an AFP photographer at Karkamis on the Turkish side of the frontier.
Kurdish activists have accused Turkey of being more intent on preventing Kurds creating a stronghold along its border than fighting IS jihadists.
But Prime Minister Binali Yidirim today denounced as a “bare-faced lie” suggestions in Western media that the Syria operation was singling out Kurds.
“They either know nothing about the world, or else their job is to report a bare-faced lie,” Yildirim said.
Ankara’s hostility to the YPG puts it at odds with its NATO ally, the United States, which supports the YPG in the fight against IS.