The Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK) – a militant youth wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) – have claimed responsibility for Sunday’s bombing in Ankara, which killed 37 people and injured 125 more.
In an online statement, TAK said the attack was in revenge for military operations in the mainly Kurdish southeast of Turkey.
The attack early on Sunday evening was the third in the Turkish capital these past five months. A car laden with 300kg of explosives went off in Güvenpark, Kızılay, in the heart of the city and a stone’s throw from the seat of government.
The Turkish authorities named Seher Çağla Demir as one of the bombers. The 24-year-old was identified from body parts and finger prints found in the car used for the bombing. Originally from Kars, Demir was a student at Balıkesir University and was on trial along with four others for being a member of the banned PKK.
Formed in 2004, TAK is a hard-line offshoot of the PKK, refusing any dialogue with the Turkish state. On Wednesday, the group wrote in Kurdish on its website that Sunday’s bombing had meant to target security forces. However, it warned that civilian casualties in this and future attacks were inevitable.
“On the evening of March 13, a suicide attack was carried out… in the streets of the capital of the fascist Turkish republic. We claim this attack,” the group said.
A month earlier, on 17 February, TAK was also behind another huge bomb in Kızılay, which they detonated as buses carrying military personnel passed by, killing 30 people.
Turkey is currently facing multiple security crises. In October of last year, Daesh operatives of Turkish Kurdish origin killed 102 people attending a peace rally in Ankara in a double suicide bombing attack. In January, 12 people died when another Daesh suicide bomber struck in the Sultanahmet district in Istanbul.
Turkey is on red alert for further attacks, with the PKK threatening to turn Nevruz – an annual regional festival on 21st March to welcome spring – into a day of carnage.
In an interview published in The Times a few days before last week’s attack, PKK leader Cemal Bayık stated their aim was to topple President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Justice and Development (AK) Party government. Their strategy includes bringing the war they are waging in southeast Turkey, which has left towns and cities looking more like war-torn Syria, to the rest of the country.
A two-year ceasefire between the PKK and Turkish forces ended last summer. Since then, more than 340 members of Turkey’s security forces have been killed along with at least 300 Kurdish fighters and over 200 civilians.
In recent months, British trade unions such as UNISON, MPs Martin Caton and Hywel Williams, MEP Jean Lambert and other members of the Green Party have all called for the PKK to be removed from the UK’s list of terrorist organisations.