Sun, Feb 21, 2016 - Page 5 News List

Obscure Kurdish group claims hand in bombing

‘ABSOLUTELY NO DOUBT’:Even after the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks said that it had carried out the Ankara bombing, Turkey instead blamed the People’s Protection Units

NY Times News Service, BAGHDAD

A protester launches firecrackers toward a Turkish police water cannon during clashes in Istanbul on Sunday last week between police and people protesting against security operations against Kurdish rebels in southeastern Turkey.

Photo: AP

An obscure Kurdish militant group that is an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which has long waged an insurgency inside Turkey, on Friday claimed responsibility for a car bombing this week in Ankara that killed 28 people.

The group said the attack was in revenge for the Turkish army’s campaign against Kurdish insurgents in the country’s southeast.

The group, known as the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks, made its claim as Turkish leaders continued to lay blame for the attack on a different group: a Syrian Kurdish militia that is supported by the US in the battle against the Islamic State.

Turkey and the US, two NATO allies, have cooperated in some ways against the Islamic State, but they have diverged over the role of the Kurds. The US has seen them as a reliable ally within Syria in combating the Islamic State, while the Turks have seen them as a national security threat, complicating US efforts in that campaign.

In blaming the Syrian Kurdish group, known as the People’s Protection Units, for the bombing in Ankara, the capital, Turkey was putting pressure on the US to cut off support for the group, an outcome that analysts and US officials have said is unlikely given the group’s success against the Islamic State.

Even as the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks claimed to be behind the bombing, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday said that “there is absolutely no doubt” that the perpetrator of the bombing was linked to the Syrian group supported by the US.

US President Barack Obama’s administration on Friday said that it had been unable to verify claims of responsibility for the bombing.

“Obviously, the terrorist attack that occurred was outrageous, and one that we strongly condemn, because there were a lot of innocent lives who were affected,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.

Turkey indicated this week that it was willing to send ground troops into Syria and pressed Western allies to coordinate such a ground campaign.

On Friday, Russia circulated a resolution in the UN Security Council drawing attention to that possibility and calling on countries to respect Syria’s sovereignty.

Its prospects are bleak, coming as Russia’s stepped-up airstrikes on northern Syria have prompted a new exodus of civilians and, according to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, have “severely disrupted” the delivery of humanitarian aid.

Even before the council’s closed-door session began on Friday afternoon, French Ambassador to the UN Francois Delattre shot down the proposal’s prospects.

He put the blame for the latest military escalation on the new push by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his backers in Moscow, and he warned that it could further inflame the region.

“Russia must understand that its unconditional support to Bashar al-Assad is a dead end and a dead end that could be extremely dangerous,” Delattre told reporters.

A copy of the draft measure, obtained by the New York Times, does not specifically mention Turkey. However, it signifies Russian efforts to raise pressure on Ankara, which it accuses of aiding terrorist groups.

The resolution includes language “strongly condemning continued cross-border shelling,” as well as what it calls “the incessant flow of foreign terrorist fighters.”

In Paris on Friday, French President Francois Hollande warned in a radio interview: “There is a risk of war between Turkey and Russia.”

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