ANKARA, Turkey — Police detained almost a thousand people in raids across Turkey on Tuesday, including dozens with alleged links to Kurdish militants, days after a suicide bomb attack in the Turkish capital.
Police detained at least 67 people across Turkey in a sweep targeting people with alleged links to Kurdish militants.
Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said police carried out raids in 16 Turkish provinces, detaining 55 people suspected of being part of the “intelligence structure” of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. At least 12 other suspected PKK members were rounded up in a separate operation in five provinces, Yerlikaya wrote on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
Yerlikaya did not clarify whether the people rounded up on Tuesday were suspected of direct involvement in Sunday’s attack.
The PKK has led a decades-long insurgency in Turkey and is considered a terror organization by the United States and the European Union. Tens of thousands of people have died since the start of the conflict in 1984.
Yerlikaya later said that 928 people suspected of holding unlicensed firearms or being connected to firearms smuggling were also arrested during the operation, but he did not immediately make it clear if the suspects arrested for illegal firearms were suspected of connections to the PKK.
He added that over 840 firearms were confiscated during the operation.
The raids across a swath of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast came two days after a branch of the PKK — listed as a terror group by Turkey and its Western allies — claimed responsibility for Sunday’s attack.
Turkish police shot dead one of the attackers while the other died in an apparent suicide blast outside Turkey’s Interior Ministry.
The attack came hours before Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attended an opening session of parliament.
BTÖ’YE YÖNELİK TÜM TÜRKİYE’DE BAŞLATILAN “KAHRAMANLAR” OPERASYONLARI KAPSAMINDA; MERSİN, VAN, ŞANLIURFA, MARDİN VE AYDIN’DA 1️⃣2️⃣ ŞÜPHELİ TERÖR ÖRGÜTÜ ÜYESİ YAKALANDI❗️
BTÖ’NÜN İSTİHBARAT YAPILANMASINA YÖNELİK ŞANLIURFA MERKEZLİ MARDİN, DİYARBAKIR, GAZİANTEP, MERSİN, ŞIRNAK,… pic.twitter.com/GFXcg7mvBa
— Ali Yerlikaya (@AliYerlikaya) October 3, 2023
Turkey on Sunday also launched air strikes against suspected PKK rear bases in the mountains of northern Iraq.
The PKK has been waging an insurgency since 1984 that has claimed tens of thousands of lives in Turkey.
A series of successive Turkish military operations has pushed the group back into neighboring Iraq.
The PKK attack coincided with the opening of a Turkish session of parliament during which lawmakers will be asked to ratify Sweden’s membership of the NATO defense alliance.
Turkey’s ratification has been held up by anger over the refusal of the Swedish police to ban marches by the PKK and their supporters in Stockholm.
Some analysts believe the PKK may be trying to block Turkey’s ratification because it would herald an improvement in Ankara’s tense ties with Washington.
Turkey is also trying to get the United States to drop its support for Kurdish fighters from the YPG group in Syria — a policy shift Ankara may expect in return for its ratification.
Washington relied on the YPG to fight Islamic State group Islamists in the region.
But Ankara views the YPG as a sister organization of the PKK.