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Turkey arrests Syrian woman, accuses PKK over Istanbul attack

1. Turkey
People lay flowers at a makeshift memorial for the victims of an explosion at the busy shopping street of Istiklal in Istanbul on November 14, 2022. (Photo: AFP)

ISTANBUL, Turkey — Turkey on Monday accused a Syrian woman of planting a bomb that killed six people in Istanbul, blaming the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) of carrying out the attack.اضافة اعلان

Two girls, aged nine and 15, were among those killed when the bomb exploded shortly after 4pm on Sunday in Istiklal Avenue, home to smart boutiques and European consulates. More than 80 other people were wounded.

“The person who planted the bomb has been arrested,” Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said in a statement broadcast by the official Anadolu news agency early Monday.

“According to our findings, the PKK terrorist organization is responsible,” Soylu said.

The PKK, blacklisted as a terrorist group by Ankara and its Western allies, has waged a deadly insurgency for Kurdish self-rule in southeastern Turkey since the 1980s.

It denied any role in the latest attack. 

“There is no relationship between the PKK and yesterday’s explosion in Istanbul,” the group’s spokesman told AFP.

A Turkish official told AFP that initial findings point to “units within a youth organization affiliated with the PKK”.

Police, quoted by private NTV television, said the chief suspect is a Syrian woman working for Kurdish militants. Forty-six people were detained in total, police said.

Police footage shared with Turkish media showed a young woman in a purple sweatshirt being apprehended in an Istanbul flat.

Police, cited by NTV, named her as Alham Albashir and said she was arrested at 2:50am in an Istanbul suburb. Local media said she was a trained PKK intelligence operative and 23 years old.

Turkey buried the victims on Monday.  

There has been no claim of responsibility.

Justice minister Bekir Bozdag told A Haber television that a woman had been sitting on a bench for more than 40 minutes, “then she got up”, leaving a bag.

“One or two minutes later, an explosion occurred,” he said.

On Monday, all the benches had been removed from Istiklal Avenue, where residents laid red carnations at the scene of the blast, some wiping away tears and others speaking of their fear of further attacks in the run-up to elections next June.

Istiklal Avenue was previously targeted during a campaign of nationwide bombings in 2015–16 that were blamed mostly on Daesh and outlawed Kurdish militants, killing nearly 500 people and wounding more than 2,000.

On Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan denounced the “vile attack” that had the “smell of terror” shortly before leaving for the G20 summit on the Indonesian resort island of Bali.

Regularly targeted by Turkish military operations, the PKK has also been at the heart of a tussle between Sweden and Turkey, which has blocked Stockholm’s bid to join NATO since May, accusing it of leniency towards the group.

International condemnation flooded in from across the world, including from the US, but on Monday, Turkey said it rejected US condolences over the attack.

Erdogan’s government has often accused Washington of supplying weapons to Kurdish fighters in northern Syria who Ankara labels as terror group linked to the PKK.

“We do not accept the US embassy’s message of condolences. We reject it,” Soylu said.

“We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our NATO ally Turkey in countering terrorism,” said White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. The US embassy tweeted it was “deeply saddened by the explosion”.

President Vladimir Putin on Monday added his own condolences in a message to Erdogan.

“We reaffirm our readiness for the closest interaction with our Turkish partners in the fight against all forms and manifestations of terrorism,” Putin said.

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