ANKARA, Nov 15 (Reuters) – Turkey plans to pursue targets in northern Syria after completing a cross-border operation against proscribed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants in Iraq, a senior official said on Tuesday after a deadly weekend bombing in Istanbul. .
The government has blamed Kurdish militants for the blast on Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul on Sunday, which killed six people and injured more than 80.
Threats from Kurdish militants or Islamic State to Turkey are unacceptable, the official told Reuters, adding that Ankara will remove threats along its southern border “one way or another”.
“Syria is a national security problem for Turkey. It is already being worked on,” said the official, who declined to be named as they were not authorized to speak to the media.
“There is an ongoing operation against the PKK in Iraq. There are certain targets in Syria after it is completed.”
There was no immediate comment from the Turkish Foreign Ministry.
No group has claimed responsibility for the blast on the busy pedestrian street, and the PKK and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have denied involvement.
Police have detained 50 people as part of the investigation into the blast, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag told the state-owned Anadolu Agency on Tuesday.
The suspected bomber, a Syrian woman named Ahlam Albashir, was apprehended early Monday during a house search in Istanbul.
Footage showed her wearing makeup and nail polish as she was taken out of the house wearing a purple sweater with the words “New York” on it. Her shoulders were hunched and her face bruised in a photo shared by police.
Separately, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said 58 of the injured had been discharged after treatment, while 17 were still in hospital, and six others in intensive care.
Turkey has so far carried out three raids in northern Syria against the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, which it says is a wing of the PKK. President Tayyip Erdogan has previously said that Turkey could carry out another operation against the YPG.
While the PKK is considered a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, Washington joined the YPG against Islamic State in the conflict in Syria.
Turks are concerned there could be more attacks ahead of the June 2023 elections, which polls suggest Erdogan could lose after two decades in power. A wave of bombings and other attacks began across the country when a ceasefire between Ankara and the PKK was broken in mid-2015 ahead of that year’s elections.
Reporting by Orhan Coskun; Written by Ali Kucukgocmen; Edited by Jonathan Spicer, Miral Fahmy, William Maclean
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