Armed Kurdish group claims Turkey airport blast

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A Kurdish group calling itself the Freedom Falcons of Kurdistan (TAK) claimed an explosion near a plane at Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen airport on December 23

A Kurdish group calling itself the Freedom Falcons of Kurdistan (TAK) claimed an explosion near a plane at Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen airport on December 23 (AFP Photo/Bulent Kilic)

Diyarbakir (Turkey) (AFP) - An armed Kurdish group on Saturday claimed responsibility for an explosion near a plane at Istanbul's second international airport which killed a female cleaner and wounded another.

"We ... claim the attack carried out by mortar bombs at Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen airport," on Wednesday, the Freedom Falcons of Kurdistan (TAK) said on its website.

Airport cleaner Zehra Yamac, 30, died of head wounds hours after the blast on the tarmac at the airport on the Asian side of Turkey's largest city. The wounded victim was also a cleaner.

The attack came as Turkey wages an all-out offensive against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which launched an armed insurgency against the Turkish state in 1984, initially fighting for Kurdish independence, then pressing for greater autonomy for the country's largest ethnic minority.

Turkish officials say TAK is a front for PKK attacks on civilian targets, but the PKK claims TAK is a splinter group over which it has no control.

On its website, TAK lashed out at what it described as a "war coalition" between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Islamic State group against the Kurds.

It also said the airport attack was a response to the "fascist attacks that turn Kurdish cities into ruins."

The armed group, which had been silent for some time, claimed the attack had inflicted "serious damage" to the airport and five planes.

The Turkish military said Saturday nearly 200 PKK rebels had been killed in the army offensive in the southeast.

The operation, which has targeted the towns of Cizre and Silopi in the province of Sirnak as well as a neighbourhood in Diyarbakir, the largest city in the region, began in mid- December.

In a statement posted on its website, the army said 156 PKK rebels were killed in Sirnak and 40 in Diyarbakir. It is not possible to independently verify the toll.

In Ankara, around 300 women activists on Saturday protested the violence in the southeast of the country, an AFP photographer at the scene reported.

Women protesters in Ankara marched to the city's main Kizilay square, forming a "chain for peace."

Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu cancelled a meeting with the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), criticising the party of banking on "conflict and tensions," his office said in an emailed statement.

Davutoglu had planned to meet with three political party leaders including HDP leader Selahattin Demirtas next week to discuss constitutional reforms.