ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish warplanes carried out new airstrikes against suspected Kurdish militant sites in northern Iraq on Tuesday, days after a suicide attack in the Turkish capital. Police, meanwhile, detained almost 1,000 people in raids across Turkey.
A defense ministry statement said the air raids hit 16 targets, including caves, shelters and depots, used by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK in the neighboring region. It said the operation aimed to protect Turkey’s borders and prevent terror attacks.
It was Turkey’s second cross-border aerial operation against PKK targets in northern Iraq since the attack in Ankara on Sunday.
Earlier, police conducted raids in several Turkish provinces, detaining close to 1,000 people, including dozens with alleged links to Kurdish militants. An opposition news anchor was also briefly detained.
Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said that 55 people suspected of being part of the PKK’s “intelligence structure” were detained in 16 provinces. At least 12 other suspected PKK members were rounded up in a separate operation in five provinces, Yerlikaya wrote on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
The PKK claimed responsibility for the suicide attack, according to a news website close to the group. The group has led a decades-long insurgency in Turkey and is considered a terror organization by the United States and the European Union. Tens of thousands of people have died since the start of the conflict in 1984.
The interior minister later said that an additional 928 people suspected of holding unlicensed firearms or being connected to firearms smuggling were arrested during the operation, but he didn’t immediately make it clear if the suspects arrested for illegal firearms were suspected of connections to the PKK.
He added that more than 840 firearms were confiscated during the operation.
A 73-year-old news anchor was also briefly detained Tuesday after she questioned details of the official account of the attack on opposition broadcaster Halk TV.
Aysenur Arslan was detained in her home after prosecutors accused her of “terrorist propaganda” and “praising criminal activity” for comments made during her television program on Monday morning.
Media freedoms in Turkey have eroded during President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ’s tenure, according to international monitors.
Much of the media have oriented itself to support Erdogan, while the few broadcasters that regularly criticize his policies are hit with fines or blackouts by the Turkish media watchdog RTUK. Turkey ranked 149th out of 180 countries in the press freedom index of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in 2022.
On Sunday, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive device near an entrance to the Interior Ministry, hours before Erdogan was set to address Parliament as it returned from its summer recess. A second would-be bomber was killed in a shootout with police.
Two police officers were slightly wounded in the attack. The suspects arrived at the scene inside a vehicle they seized from a veterinarian in the central Turkish city of Kayseri after shooting him in the head, officials said.
Turkish authorities identified one of the assailants as a PKK militant. Hours later, Turkey’s air force carried out airstrikes on suspected PKK sites in northern Iraq, where the group’s leadership is based. The Defense Ministry said a large number of PKK militants were “neutralized” in Sunday’s strikes.
Yerlikaya didn’t clarify whether the people rounded up on Tuesday were suspected of direct involvement in Sunday’s attack.
Robert Badendieck reported from Istanbul.