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PKK claims responsibility for Mersin attack, says attacker named by Turkish gov’t wasn’t involved

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The outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has claimed responsibility for an attack that killed a police officer and injured another officer and a civilian in the southern province of Mersin on Monday and added that the Turkish government’s claim that one of the attackers was PKK member Dilşah Ercan was false, the Arbil-based Kurdish news agency Rudaw reported on Thursday.

The casualties occurred on Monday after two bombs exploded near police quarters in Mersin following a shootout between two assailants and the police.

According to a press statement issued by Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, who went to Mersin following the attack, two female militants opened fire on the building, used as a residence by the police and guarded by them in Mezitli, starting a shootout between themselves and the police.

Soylu released several written statements regarding Monday’s attack, informing that it took place at around 11 p.m. local time, that the security forces also detonated a bomb set up near the residence and that an “armed suspect” was detained by security forces following the attack.

The ministry also claimed that the outlawed PKK was behind the attack, with one of the assailants determined to be Ercan, code-named Zozan Tolan, from the PKK.

“The AKP-MHP government [the ruling Justice and Development Party and its ally Nationalist Movement Party] failed to identify our friends who carried out this attack, which shows how weak they are in intelligence. Although the government knew that our friend Zozan Tolan was not involved, they intentionally named Zozan and wanted to use this as leverage against her family … Zozan had nothing to do with this incident, she is still operational,” Rudaw quoted the PKK’s press bureau as saying.

The PKK statement also gave the identities of the perpetrators of the attack, identifying them as Dilara Ürper, born in southeastern Şırnak, who uses the code name “Sara Tolhildan,” and Emel Feremez Hisên, born in the Syrian town of Kamışlo, Rojava, code named “Rûken Zelal.”

On the other hand, the T24 news website, citing police sources, claimed that the security forces had also carried out a fingerprint match and that the fingerprints of the perpetrators and those of Ercan did not match.

According to journalist Ahmet Nesin, the government tried to pin the attack on Ercan to accuse the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) of links to the PKK.

After the attack, the pro-government media claimed that Ercan’s name had been mentioned as a jailed journalist in a CHP report on press freedom.

“The perpetrators are Ruken Zelal and Sara Tolhildan. The state’s aim is to declare the CHP-HDP as terrorists,” Nesin tweeted.

Following the attack, Turkish police detained 30 people including municipal employees in Mersin.

Eighteen employees of the Mersin Metropolitan Municipality including director for public affairs and press Bedrettin Güneş are among those detained as part of the investigation overseen by the Mersin Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.

The Mersin Municipality was one of the municipalities lost to the opposition in the local elections of 2019 by the Public Alliance, comprising President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s AKP and its far-right ally, the MHP.

Currently run by a mayor from the CHP, the municipality is frequently targeted by AKP and MHP officials, and its employees face legal harassment on allegations that they have links to the PKK.

The municipality’s former mayor was from the MHP.

Designated as a terrorist group by Turkey and much of the international community, the PKK has been waging an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984 that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

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