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Turkish forces clash with Kurdish rebels after Ankara blast


A women and her children stand by a soldier during clashes in central Diyarbakir on March 15, 2016.  / AFP / ILYAS AKENGIN

A women and her children stand by a soldier during clashes in central Diyarbakir on March 15, 2016. / AFP / ILYAS AKENGIN

Turkish security forces clashed with rebels in the main city of the Kurdish-dominated southeast Tuesday, days after a deadly bombing in Ankara that the government blamed on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Fighting with rocket-launchers and automatic weapons was under way on Tuesday morning in Diyarbakir city’s Baglar district, several parts of which have been put under curfew, an AFP journalist reported.

Security sources said a police officer and three “terrorists” had been killed, and around 10 civilians wounded.

Turkey has been waging an all-out offensive against the PKK in parts of Diyabakir since December, but this is the first time clashes have spread to Baglar.

The violence broke out on Monday evening when young PKK members put up barricades and burned vehicles in Baglar, security sources said, prompting a swift response from the police.

Civilians were forced to flee from their homes by the clashes, carrying their belongings through the streets past burned-out vehicles.

The clashes came hours after Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said there was “almost certain” evidence that the PKK was behind a suicide car bombing that killed 35 people in Ankara on Sunday.

The PKK, which launched an insurgency against the Turkish state in 1984, fighting for greater autonomy and rights for the country’s largest ethnic minority, has not claimed the attack.

The PKK is blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by Ankara, Washington and the European Union.

Turkish jets carried out retaliatory air strikes on PKK camps in northern Iraq just hours after the Ankara bombing, while authorities have made 11 arrests and Davutoglu vowed to “take any step required to defend this country”.

Sunday’s blast came less than a month after a similar bombing targeting military personnel killed 29 people in a nearby area of Ankara, raising fresh fears about Turkey’s ability to deal with the twin security threat of Kurdish rebels and the Islamic State (IS) group.

The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), a dissident PKK faction, claimed the earlier blast as revenge for military operations in the southeast, which have seen months of clashes and several towns put under strict 24-hour curfews.

Last week the army announced the end of three months of operations in Diyarbakir’s historic Sur district, where the curfew has been progressively eased.

But special police units have started fresh operations in three other southeastern towns, now under curfew.

The Kurdish conflict erupted again in July last year after the collapse of a two-and-a-half year ceasefire.

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