Eleven police officers were killed and 78 people were injured when terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants attacked a police checkpoint in a bomb-laden truck in the Cizre district of Turkey’s southeastern Şırnak province early on Friday.
Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci, speaking on news broadcaster NTV, confirmed that 11 police officers were killed and 78 others were wounded. Health Minister Recep Akdag said four of the injured were in critical condition.
Large plumes of smoke billowed from the scene of the attack in Cizre, TV footage showed. Reports said a dozen ambulances and two helicopters had been sent to the area.
Photographs broadcast by private channel NTV showed a large three-story building reduced to its concrete shell, with no walls or windows, and surrounded by grey rubble.
Turkey’s Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) issued an immediate gag order on the attack in a move that has almost become a routine in Turkey in the wake of terrorist attacks.
The PKK attack in Cizre came two days after Turkey launched an incursion against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Kurdish militia fighters in Syria.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a statement on Friday that the perpetration of the attack in Cizre when Turkey is conducting the Euphrates Shield operation in Syria was “thought-provoking.”
Turkish special forces, tanks and warplanes launched their first major incursion into Syria on Wednesday in support of Syrian rebels, in an operation President Erdogan has said is aimed both at driving ISIL away from the border area and preventing territorial gains by the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey views as an extension of the PKK. The operation is called Euphrates Shield.
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, commenting on the PKK attack in Cizre on Friday said: “No terrorist organization can take the Turkish Republic hostage. … Our nation should know that we have launched an all-out war against all terrorist organizations. Just as Gazi [a reference to the nation’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk] said, ‘Either independence or death’.”
The PKK is designated as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, as well as Turkey. There have been repeated clashes between security forces and PKK members since a cease-fire between the government and the PKK’s jailed leader, Abdullah Öcalan, collapsed in July of last year.
Since the settlement process launched by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government in 2012 with the PKK to end the country’s long-standing Kurdish problem ended in July, nearly 200,000 locals in the Southeast have been forced to leave their homes due to fighting and curfews.
The authorities have been imposing curfews in towns and districts to flush PKK militants from urban areas in Turkey’s mostly Kurdish Southeast since then.