The car bombings – less than 12 hours apart – killed at least six people in total and injured over 200, officials said Thursday, blaming the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The rebels, who have been fighting a deadly insurgency against the Turkish state for three decades, appear to have intensified their attacks since the failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
At least three police officers were killed and scores more people wounded in a car bombing that hit a police headquarters in the eastern city of Elazig early Thursday.
The blast left much of the four-storey building in ruins, with television images showing a large plume of black smoke billowing into the sky while rescuers searched for survivors.
The city, a conservative nationalist bastion, had been spared much of the violence that has rocked the Kurdish-dominated southeast.
Officials blamed the PKK, with one accusing the rebels of collaborating with supporters of US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, accused by Ankara of orchestrating the July 15 coup bid.
“We will thwart the PKK like we thwarted FETO (Fethullah Terrorist Organisation),” Defence Minister Fikri Isik told the state-run Anadolu news agency, using the name Ankara gives to the movement led by Gulen.
CNN-Turk television reported that 146 people had been injured, quoting city governor Murat Zorluoglu.
Never before suffered an attack
“Until now, we never suffered an attack on our city or received intelligence on a possible attack,” Omer Serdar, an MP for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) told CNN-Turk.
Turkey’s Radio and Television Supreme Council issued a temporary ban on visual coverage of the attack after an order from the prime minister’s office, Anadolu reported.
Two more policemen and a civilian were killed in another car bombing on Wednesday night in Van, another city in the east which has a mixed ethnic Kurdish and Turkish population.
A Turkish official said at least 53 civilians and 20 police officers were also wounded in the attack in the city, that lies near the border with Iran.
Former prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu suggested on Twitter that Gulen’s movement was working with the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organisation by Ankara, the United States and the European Union.
“Once again, the attacks in Van and Elazig show how PKK and FETO work together.”
Another five police and three civilians were killed in a PKK car bombing on a police traffic control building near the main southeastern city of Diyarbakir on Monday, the day seen as the 32nd anniversary of the launch of the armed rebellion.
Exploiting the crisis
A source close to the Turkish government told AFP that the PKK was taking “advantage of the current atmosphere in Turkey”.
“Any terrorist organisation likes to exploit crises,” the source said, referring to the aftermath of the failed putsch which has seen a massive purge of the army, including the dismissal of almost half Turkey’s generals and admirals.
More than 600 Turkish security force members have been killed by the PKK since the collapse of a ceasefire last year, according to a toll given by Anadolu on July 31.
The government has responded with military operations against the group, killing more than 7,000 militants in Turkey and northern Iraq, the agency said.
It is not possible to independently verify the toll.
Over 40,000 people have been killed since the PKK first took up arms in 1984 in a separatist rebellion led by now jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan