May 22, 2007

Turkey: Possible Perpetrators Behind the Ankara Blast

Source: Stratfor
May 22, 2007 18 03 GMT



Summary

An explosion at a shopping mall in the Turkish capital May 22 killed four people and wounded another 56. Authorities say a bomb caused the explosion. Kurdish separatists and Islamist militants both have reasons for carrying out such an attack, and thus both groups are suspect.

Analysis

An explosion took place May 22 at a shopping mall in the old commercial district of Ulus in the central part of Turkey's capital, Ankara. The private NTV news channel said at least four people died and 56 were injured. Initially, a police spokesman rejected reports of any deaths, and media quoted Ankara Gov. Kemal Onal as saying an accident caused the blast. Later, however, officials -- including Ankara Mayor Melih Gokcek -- and news reports said the explosion was caused by a bomb.

Kurdish militants could well be behind the blast. Not only are Kurdish rebels affiliated with the militant Kurdistan Freedom Hawks known to be active during the summer, but recent actions against Kurds also have increased tensions. Turkish forces have been conducting operations against Kurdish militants in southeastern Turkey and have increased pressure on Iraqi Kurdish authorities to crack down on Turkish Kurdish rebels based in Northern Iraq. A Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) official in Arbil recently announced that the KRG is preparing to expel members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party from its area.

Should it turn out that Kurdish rebels were behind the Ankara blast, tensions will rise between the Turkish military establishment and the government, which are already engaged in a dispute over the presidential election. Tensions between Ankara and the KRG also are expected to rise, which could affect U.S. plans to work with Iran to stabilize Iraq.

Though the Kurds could have carried out the attack, Islamist militants cannot be ruled out as suspects. First, a number of jihadists have recently been arrested in Turkey; and second, the explosion's size and target -- an area frequented by foreigners -- bear the hallmarks of an Islamist militant bombing. If it turns out that Islamist militants were behind the explosion, it will only exacerbate the ongoing political crisis pitting the secular establishment and the ruling Justice and Development Party against each other.

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