Violent protests and the double killing of two police officers threaten to reignite ethnic tensions in Turkey following the suicide bombing of a Kurdish town blamed on ISIL — a group whose growth across the Syrian border Ankara has tolerated, protesters say.
At least 11 people were detained overnight as anti-government protests raged for a second day, turning violent in Istanbul and other cities.
Meanwhile two police officers were found dead, shot in the head, in a house in the southeastern city of Sanliurfa on Wednesday, security sources said. The deaths were claimed by the Kurdistans Workers’ Party (PKK) in revenge for the border attack
Protests erupted in a dozen or so neighborhoods in Istanbul late on Tuesday, as well as cities in the predominantly Kurdish southeast. They followed Monday’s bombing in the predominantly-Kurdish town of Suruc near the Syrian border, which killed 32 people.
Turkey’s NATO allies have expressed concern about control of the border which in parts runs directly parallel with territories controlled by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. Some 1.8 million Syrian refugees live on the Turkish side and smuggling is rife.
Many of Turkey’s Kurds and opposition supporters accuse President Tayyip Erdogan and the ruling AK Party of covertly backing ISIL against Kurdish fighters in Syria, something the government has repeatedly denied.
“Murderer Islamic State, collaborator Erdogan and AKP” some of the protesters chanted as they marched down a major shopping avenue in Istanbul’s Kadikoy neighborhood, before police fired tear gas and water cannon when they refused to disperse.
There were also protests overnight in the capital Ankara, where demonstrators carried pictures of those killed in the Suruc attack as well as banners of the youth federation of which many of the victims were members.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Tuesday rejected accusations that Turkey had tacitly supported ISIL and had unwittingly opened the door to the bombing. He has said, however, that initial evidence suggests ISIL was responsible for the attack.
The blast tore through a group of university-aged students, led by the Federation of Socialist Youth Associations, as they gathered in Suruc ahead of a planned trip to help rebuild the nearby Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane.
They had hoped to bring toys to children and help rebuild playgrounds and a library destroyed during a months-long siege by ISIL.
Investigators said TNT was used as the explosive and have not yet been able to determine the identity of the bomber due to the condition of his or her remains, CNN Turk said.
The opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), whose base support is Kurdish, has called for supporters to converge in Istanbul for a mass rally on Saturday.
Kobane was attacked again by ISIL in June and has been a rallying point for Turkey’s Kurdish minority, enraged by what they see as the Turkey’s refusal to intervene in a conflict playing out right on its border.