A militant group linked to the communist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which the United States considers a terrorist group, has claimed responsibility for carrying out the suicide car-bomb attack that killed 37 people in the Turkish capital.
The attack in Ankara was in retaliation to Turkish military operations against Kurdish rebels in southeast Turkey, the militant group known as the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK) reportedly said in a statement posted on its website Thursday.
According to the Associated Press (AP), “The Turkey-based group is considered an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and has carried out several attacks in the past including one in Ankara in February that killed 29 people.”
Turkey, the United States, and some of their NATO allies have officially labeled the communist PKK as a terrorist group.
Turkey has extended the terrorist designation to the U.S.-backed Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) that controls large swathes of northern Syria. Ankara accuses the PYD and its armed wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), of being affiliated with the PKK.
While the Obama administration has acknowledged Turkey’s concerns over the PYD, it considers the Syrian Kurds’ main armed service one of the most successful armed groups fighting the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) on the ground in Syria.
“We don’t, as you know, recognize the PYD as a terrorist organization,” declared John Kirby, a State Department spokesman in February. “We recognize that the Turks do, and I understand that. Even the best of friends aren’t going to agree on everything.”
“We have said that these Kurdish fighters are successful against Daesh [Arabic acronym for ISIS],” he also said, adding, “These groups that we are providing support for, and we’re going to continue to provide that support because they are going after the group that we believe needs to be eradicated in Iraq and Syria.”
Nevertheless, the United States has warned the PYD not to support the PKK in Turkey.
“It is also not a secret that Turkey has expressed concerns about some of the Syrian Kurdish groups in northern Syria, including the PYD,” said U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken earlier this month. He continued, “We have made it very clear to the PYD that any action it takes to either support the PKK or to engage the other opposition groups are profoundly problematic and we look to the PYD to act responsibly and focus its efforts on the fight against Daesh.”
Since July, more than 200 people have reportedly died in five suicide bombings in Turkey that were blamed either on the Kurdish rebels or ISIS.