ISTANBUL, Turkey (4th UPDATE) – The outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) on Friday, August 26, claimed a suicide truck bombing on a police building in Turkey's southeast that killed 11 officers and wounded dozens more.
The blast came two days after the Turkish army launched an offensive in Syria that the government says is not only aimed against Islamic State (IS) jihadists but also a Syrian Kurdish militia detested by Ankara.
The blast tore the facade off the headquarters of the Turkish riot police in the town of Cizre, a bastion of PKK support just north of the Syrian border.
The local governor's office said 11 officers were killed and 78 people injured, 3 of them civilians. Four people were said to be in critical condition.
The state-run Anadolu news agency said the explosion took place 50 meters (yards) from the building, at a control post.
The PKK said it carried out the assault in retaliation for the "continued isolation" of the group's jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan and the "lack of information" about his welfare.
Cizre, a majority Kurdish town, has been badly hit by renewed violence between the PKK and government forces since the collapse of a ceasefire last year.
Turkish security forces have been hit by near daily PKK attacks since a two-and-a-half year truce with the state collapsed in July 2015, leaving hundreds of police officers and soldiers dead.
Turkey's operation in Syria aims to push both IS and the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia that is fighting the jihadists out of the border region.
Ankara considers the YPG, which has links to the PKK, as a terror group bent on carving out an autonomous Kurdish region on Turkey's border.
On Friday, the army sent 4 more tanks over the border, according to an Agence France-Presse photographer at Karkamis on the Turkish side of the frontier.
Kurdish activists have accused Turkey of being more intent on preventing Syrian Kurds creating a stronghold than fighting IS jihadists.
But Prime Minister Binali Yildirim on Friday 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," he said.
Ankara's hostility to the Syrian Kurdish fighters has put it at odds with its NATO ally, the United States, which supports them in the fight against IS.
On Wednesday, August 24, Turkish tanks and fighter jets helped pro-Turkish rebels rout IS from the town of Jarabulus, on which the YPG appeared to have designs.
On Thursday, August 25, Turkey shelled Kurdish fighters in the area, saying they were failing to observe a deal with the US to stop advancing west into IS-held territory.
Anadolu quoted security sources as saying the military would continue to intervene against the Syrian Kurdish fighters until they began to retreat.
In a separate incident on the border, 3 Turkish soldiers were injured by mortar shells fired from Syria that landed in Yayladagi district, Dogan news agency reported.
The agency said there had been clashes between local Turkmen and Syrian regime forces in Latakia, from where the shells were fired.
'Left without a fight'
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin – who until late June had been locked in a bitter feud over the shooting down of a Russian war plane – agreed to step up efforts to ensure aid reached Syria's conflict-torn northern Aleppo province.
The two also emphasized the need to fight "all terror groups" in Syria, Anadolu agency said.
Visiting Turkey on Wednesday, US Vice President Joe Biden said Washington had warned YPG not to move west of the Euphrates river after recent advances, or risk losing American support.
Murat Karayilan, one of the top Iraq-based leaders of the PKK, accused Turkey of doing a deal with IS to vacate Jarabulus.
"ISIS has never abandoned a town in one day without putting up a fight," he told the pro-PKK Firat news agency, using another acronym for IS.
The PKK has kept up its assaults following the unsuccessful July 15 coup by rogue elements in the military aimed at unseating Erdogan.
The government for its part has vowed to press on with the campaign to eradicate the PKK from eastern Turkey.
Over the past year, the military has conducted operations and imposed punishing curfews in towns and cities in the southeast that have claimed civilian lives, including in Cizre.
Over 40,000 people have been killed since the PKK first took up arms in 1984 with the aim of carving out an independent state for Turkey's Kurdish minority.
It is proscribed as a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and the United States. – Rappler.com