from the site of an explosion on March 13th in central Ankara, just a few
hundred metres from the prime minister’s office, shows a busy bus stop—and then
a blinding flash of white light and pedestrians running for cover amid a downpour
of flaming debris. By the following morning the suicide attack, the second to
hit Turkey’s capital in less than a month, had claimed at least 37 lives.
officials quoted by Reuters said that two people took part in the bombing. At
least one was said to be a female member of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK),
a Kurdish separatist group. The government has not yet confirmed such reports,
though it has suggested the group’s involvement. “There are very serious,
almost certain findings that point to the separatist terrorist organisation,”
Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish prime minister, told reporters that evening.
of terrorist violence in Turkey has no recent precedent. In the space of five
months, three separate attacks have taken place in Ankara alone. Four weeks ago
a car bomb killed 30 people, many of them soldiers, less than a mile from the
scene of this weekend’s carnage. A PKK splinter group claimed responsibility.
In October a pair of Islamic State suicide-bombers left over 100 dead at a
rally near Ankara’s train terminal.
situation is also dismal in the Kurdish south-east, where the army has
responded to attacks by insurgents with 24-hour curfews, tanks and artillery
rounds. This has dealt the PKK a blow, but at the cost of leaving entire
neighbourhoods, as well as their residents, buried in rubble. According to the
International Crisis Group, a think-tank, no fewer than 285 civilians have died
in the fighting since last summer, as well as at least 350 members of the
security forces and 299 PKK fighters.
the latest attack, the conflict was showing no signs of lessening. Late last
week Turkey’s interior ministry announced new operations, accompanied by a
deployment of 20,000 troops and police, against insurgents in three more
Kurdish towns: Nusaybin, Sirnak and Yuksekova. Meanwhile, the leadership of the
the PKK and at least nine armed leftist groups declared a united front against
the Ankara government.
by the PKK or any of its offshoots in the Ankara bombing would mark a critical
turn in a war that has already gripped the country for more than three decades.
It would also signal a dangerous shift in the PKK’s strategy. In recent years,
the group has shied away from attacks on civilian targets. Its decision to
abandon that policy would do major damage to both the legitimate Kurdish
struggle for new rights and autonomy, of which the PKK claims to be the sole
spokesperson, and its role in the international coalition against Islamic State
in Iraq and Syria.
would allow the Ankara government to launch yet more armed operations,
condemning more south-eastern towns to destruction, and to crack down on the
Kurdish movement at large. That process may already be under way. On March 14th
Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on the government to “redefine”
terrorism. There should be no difference, he said, between “a terrorist holding
a gun or a bomb and those who use their position or pen to support terror”.