Kurdish group close to PKK claims deadly Ankara attack

Fulya Ozerkan
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The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), a radical Kurdish group with ties to the PKK, claimed responsibility for the March 13 blast in Ankara

The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), a radical Kurdish group with ties to the PKK, claimed responsibility for the March 13 blast in Ankara (AFP Photo/Mehmet Ozer)

Ankara (AFP) - A radical Kurdish group with ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party on Thursday claimed responsibility for the suicide car bomb attack that killed 35 people in Ankara last weekend.

The claim by the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK) came as Germany closed diplomatic missions and schools in Turkey after Berlin received information that they could be targeted.

In a statement on its website, TAK named the woman bomber as Seher Cagla Demir, who had been involved since 2013 in a "radical fight against a policy of massacre and denial against the Kurdish people."

"On the evening of March 13, a suicide attack was carried out... in Ankara, the heart of the fascist Turkish republic," the statement said.

The group also posted a picture of the 24-year-old woman online.

According to the government, the female bomber was affiliated with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and trained in Syria by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).

Sunday's bomb ripped through a busy transport hub in Ankara close to the interior and justice ministries, prime minister's office, parliament and foreign embassies.

The TAK said its attack was not intended to kill civilians and was a response to security operations by Turkish forces in the Kurdish-dominated southeast of the country.

- 'Crush terrorism' -

Turkey has suffered five major bombings since July last year, killing more than 200 people, including two in Ankara in less than a month.

The TAK already claimed a car bombing in Ankara last month that killed 29 people.

In the face of mounting criticism over the authorities' apparent failure to prevent such attacks, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday again vowed to "crush" the attackers.

"Sooner or later, we will crush all the terrorists in this country," he said.

The escalating violence has seen foreign missions in the capital heighten security measures.

The German embassy in Ankara, the Istanbul consulate and German schools in both cities were closed Thursday as a precaution.

"There were indications that we took very seriously that attacks against our diplomatic representations in Turkey were planned," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in Berlin.

The consulate and the two schools will remain closed on Friday.

Last January, 12 German tourists were killed in a suicide attack blamed on the Islamic State group in the heart of Istanbul's tourist district.

- Crackdown -

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who laid flowers at the latest blast site on Thursday, sought to reassure citizens.

"Our security forces are working round the clock so that public order is in place," he said.

The tense security situation has seen the government press parliament to strip some pro-Kurdish lawmakers of their parliamentary immunity.

"If there's anything worse than the terrorist attacks themselves, it's the political parties that support them," Davutoglu said.

Turkish police have also arrested a number of lawyers and academics in recent days as part of a clampdown on pro-Kurdish activists.

The crackdown has so far raised only muted criticism from Europe, which is relying on Turkey's help to resolve the continent's unprecedented migrant crisis.

In the immediate aftermath of Sunday's bombing, the Turkish authorities pointed the finger at the PKK, against which Ankara has waged a relentless assault since late last year after a shaky two-year truce collapsed.

Just hours after the blast, Turkish jets dropped bombs on PKK targets in northern Iraq.

Turkish officials say the little-known 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.

The PKK launched a bloody insurgency against the Turkish state in 1984 for greater autonomy for Kurds, a conflict that has claimed some 40,000 lives and is listed as a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies.

Citing "security concerns", the Turkish authorities have banned Kurdish New Year festivities in several cities this year. The celebrations, scheduled for March 21, usually attract large crowds.