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Istanbul bombing | Kurdish fighters deny involvement, Syrian woman arrested

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(Istanbul) Turkey buried on Monday the six victims of the attack which occurred on Sunday in the main shopping street of Istiklal in Istanbul, attributed by the authorities to the Kurdish movements of the PKK / YPG, which deny any involvement.

More than 24 hours later, the operation has not been claimed.

The city of Adana (South) accompanied the funeral of little Ecrin, 9, killed with her father while they were waiting together for the mother, who entered one of the many shops on the street.

The other four victims were buried in Istanbul. The mayor of the city Ekrem Imamoglu carried the coffin of a young woman killed, before helping, shovel in hand, to cover it with earth.

The six passers-by succumbed to an explosion of TNT which occurred in the crowded artery on this sunny Sunday. More than 80 others were injured, including about 20 who remained hospitalized on Monday.


PHOTO YASIN AKGUL, FRANCE-PRESSE AGENCY

Investigators at the scene of the explosion

The authorities quickly blamed the fighters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and their allies in Syria, announcing 47 arrests including that of the bomber, a 23-year-old Syrian girl who allegedly acted at their request.

“According to our conclusions, the terrorist organization PKK is responsible” for the attack, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said overnight from Sunday to Monday.

But the PKK, which has been confronting Ankara for almost 40 years, has assured that it has “no connection with this event”: “We do not target civilians and reject operations that do so”, said the organization via an agency press friend, Firat.

“Order given from Kobane”

The main suspect, named Alham Albashir according to the police, would have entered Turkey illegally via Afrine, in northeastern Syria, controlled by the Turkish army and local auxiliaries.


PHOTO PROVIDED BY TURKISH POLICE VIA REUTERS

Images released by the Turkish police showed the young woman in a purple sweater, swollen face, after her arrest in the suburbs of Istanbul with other suspects.

According to Mr. Soylu, “the order for the attack was given from Kobané”, a city in northeastern Syria controlled by Kurdish movements allied to the PKK such as the YPG, the People’s Protection Units.

For Ankara, the YPG and the PKK are “terrorist” movements.

But in a statement, the YPG also “categorically denied any link with Ahlam Albashir”.

Kobani has remained famous for the 2015 battle that saw Kurdish forces backed by the Western coalition repel the jihadist group Islamic State (IS).

As of Sunday evening, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his vice-president Fuat Oktay had designated “a woman” as responsible for the attack.

According to the Turkish Minister of Justice, Bekir Bozdag, she “sat on a bench for 40 to 45 minutes and, one or two minutes later, there was an explosion”.

Turkish media shared an image taken from a surveillance camera on Istiklal Avenue, showing a young woman in fatigues, wearing a loose black scarf, running away into the crowd.

Mr. Soylu gave a diplomatic twist to the crisis on Monday by saying that Turkey “rejects” the condolences of the United States which “supports the terrorists” of Kobani.

On Monday, Istiklal Avenue, Istanbul’s main pedestrian artery which had been closed after the explosion, was completely reopened to the public.

But all the benches on the avenue – entirely decked out on Monday with the red flag of Turkey – had been removed, AFP noted.

PKK and NATO

The PKK, considered a terrorist organization by Ankara and its Western allies, including the United States and the European Union, has been guilty of numerous bloody attacks on Turkish soil in the past.

Despite the denials, a senior Turkish official told AFP that elements point to “units within a youth organization affiliated with the PKK”.

In December 2016, a radical group close to the PKK, the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), claimed responsibility for a double attack near the Besiktas soccer stadium in Istanbul, which left 47 dead, including 39 police officers and 160 injured.

The PKK is also at the heart of a standoff between Sweden and Turkey which has been blocking the entry of Stockholm, accused of leniency towards the PKK, into NATO since May.

Ankara is calling for the extradition of several of its members.

The Turkish army regularly carries out cross-border operations, in the mountainous areas of northern Iraq in particular, to pursue Kurdish fighters.

Last month, accusations relayed by the opposition and pro-Kurdish media, denied by the authorities, referred to the use of chemical weapons against PKK fighters. They published a list of 17 names, accompanied by photos of people presented as “martyrs” killed by poison gas.



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