Not only Islamic State, but the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Syrian Kurdish group PYD, and Syria’s intelligence also played a role in the twin suicide bombings in Ankara, said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on October 22.
In the aftermath of the bomb attacks, PM Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Islamic State (IS) was the prime suspect. Prosecutors announced on Monday that one of the suicide bombers involved in the attack was identified as Yunus Emre Alagoz, a IS militant. His brother also carried out a similar attack in July in the Turkish town of Suruc, near the Syrian border, killing more than 30 people.
After the Suruc bombing, the PKK killed two policemen in the south-eastern town of Ceylanpinar in retaliation. The Turkish military responded by bombing PKK positions in northern Iraq that ended the peace process, triggering a wave of PKK attacks in Turkey’s south-east. More than 150 security personnel have lost their lives, while, according to the authorities, hundreds of PKK militants have been killed in the ensuing clashes.
The Ankara bombing is a collective terror act in which IS, PKK militants, the PYD and the Syrian intelligence worked together, said Erdogan.
Critics accuse the government of serious security lapse before the Ankara bombings.
The PYD’s armed wing YPG has proved to be the most effective anti-government group in Syria, battling Islamic State. The US has been supporting the Syrian Kurdish militia in coordinated efforts to counter the jihadist group. But, the cooperation between the PKK-linked PYD and the US angers the government in Ankara which labels the Syrian Kurdish group as terrorist.
Erdogan’s remarks came shortly after the Russian President Vladimir Putin briefed him on a telephone conversation on the Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad’s surprise visit to Moscow. According to the local media, during the conversation Erdogan pointed to the links between the PKK and PYD.
Erdogan has been one of most outspoken critics of the Assad regime and the since the beginning of the civil war, the Turkish government has supported anti-government forces in Syria.
Russia began airstrikes in Turkey’s southern neighbour at the end of September in support of the Syrian president.
Putin suggested on October 22 that Assad agrees to work with rebel groups that are willing to fight against Islamic State. Putin said he asked Assad during a meeting in Moscow how he would view an armed opposition force that was genuinely ready to combat Islamic state. Assad responded positively, said Putin.
Media reports earlier this week suggested that Turkey may soften its stance on Syria. The government in Ankara is ready to accept a six-month transition period in Syria in which Assad would remain a symbolic president, according to media.
The foreign ministers of Turkey and Saudi Arabia are expected to take part in a meeting of Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and US secretary of state John Kerry on Syria scheduled for October 23 in Vienna.
Turkey hosts more than 2mn Syrian refugees and it has spent close to $8bn to look after them. Ankara has been discussing measures with the EU on how to solve the refugee crisis.
The government’s Syria policy is highly unpopular with the Turkish public. A recent survey by polling company Metropoll found that 56.4% of Turks disapprove the government’s Syria policy, while only 28.9% approve it.
Surveys suggest that the Ankara bombing has had a little impact on the voters’ choices, even though PM Davutoglu recently claimed that support for his ruling Justice and Development Party, AKP, has risen to 44%-45% after the Ankara attack.
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