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Hundreds of Arrests Follow Kurdish Terror Attack on Istanbul Soccer Stadium

The Turkish government has arrested 235 people and counting following a deadly terrorist bombing near a football (soccer) stadium in Istanbul, claimed by a Kurdish separatist terror group.

The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reports that police have detained 235 people, “including local executives of the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP),” following an investigation into the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a U.S.-designated Marxist terrorist group. It remains unclear whether these arrests are directly related to the Istanbul bombing, as the PKK did not take credit for the attack. Instead, a group known as the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK), sometimes translated as “Kurdistan Freedom Falcons,” took responsibility for the bombing.

TAK is closely aligned with the PKK and has described itself on its website as a coalition of former members of the PKK who have resorted to violence to oppose the Islamist regime of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and free the imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan. “We then decided the methods of struggle of [the PKK], which pay attention to political considerations, were too feeble,” their site reads.

TAK has also taken responsibility for a June 2016 car bombing targeting riot police and the October bombing of an Istanbul police station. TAK has on multiple occasions employed female suicide bombers to execute their attacks.

The HDP is a center-left, Kurdish-friendly party that has supported the election of multiple Kurdish, Christian, and other minority legislators. Erdogan’s government has regularly accused the HDP of maintaining too close ties to the PKK and has arrested dozens of its members, including its co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ. To do so, Erdogan’s Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) pushed through the legislature a bill that stripped legislators of their criminal immunity. Demirtaş, Yüksekdağ, and their peers are being held on a variety of charges of supporting a terrorist group.

Demirtaş had previously accused Erdogan himself of abetting terrorists, comparing the AKP to the Islamic State earlier this year.

HDP leaders have accused Turkish law enforcement of torturing Demirtaş while imprisoned. “We are here today for Demirtaş’s prison conditions. Unfortunately, he is still being kept in isolation alone,” HDP deputy Meral Danış Beştaş said last week. “Isolation is a form of torture and our lawmakers and co-chairs are being overtly subjected to torture.”

The Turkish state-run Anadolu Agency reports that 44 people were killed in the Istanbul attack and 98 injured, according to the government. Of those killed, 36 were police, in keeping with TAK’s stated objective of targeting law enforcement officers. Police have arrested 13 people suspected of direct ties to this attack, separate from the hundreds arrested for PKK ties nationwide this week.

“No one should have any doubt about our fight against terrorism,” Erdogan said Sunday while visiting those hospitalized following the attack. “We are the owners of this country, and will not leave it to those scums if they aim to scare us with such attacks,” he added.

The Turkish military reported that it had attacked multiple PKK targets in Iraq following the terrorist bombing, destroying twelve of them, according to state-run Anadolu Agency.

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