Ankara (AsiaNews) – Five days before parliamentary election, Turkish authorities pressed on their “war on terror” by arresting scores of people suspected of belonging to the Islamic State (IS) group. At the same time, Turkish forces have hit Kurdish rebels across the border in Syria, weakening their positions vis-à-vis IS.
Yesterday, Turkish police launched a massive dawn swoop on suspected IS hideouts in the central Anatolian city of Konya, detaining 30 jihadists. Another 21 suspects were arrested in a similar operation in Istanbul, with another 14 detained in the town of Kocaeli, east of Istanbul.
The raids followed a gun battle in a similar operation Monday in the south-eastern Kurdish majority city of Diyarbakir that left two police officers and seven IS suspects dead. The latter appeared to be preparing suicide attacks. In addition to two Kalashnikovs, police found 200 kg of ammonium nitrate, which is used in bomb making.
Since an attack on a peaceful pro-Kurdish demonstration in Ankara on 10 October that killed 102 people, wounding another 500, the Turkish government has stepped up its war on terror.
Ankara has also taken its fight against "Kurdish terrorism", in particular against the bases of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (Kurd. Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê or PKK) in Syria and Iraq. The PKK has sought to establish an independent Kurdish state.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu confirmed late Monday that the military had struck Kurdish fighters across the border in northern Syria. He warned that Turkey would attack Syrian Kurds because of alleged links with the PKK.
Davutoglu's comments came after Syrian Kurdish fighters accused the Turkish military of attacking their positions near the self-governing town of Tal Abyad, where the Kurds expelled IS forces after fierce clashes in June.
Alarmed by the growing strength of Syrian Kurds, Turkey fears that the latter could eventually create an independent state and thus threaten Ankara’s control over Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish south-eastern region.
Following repeated Turkish attacks, the PKK decided to resume attacks against the Turkish military, reactivating a conflict on hold since the fall of 2012.
The Turkish government exploited this to accuse Turkey’s main Kurdish party, the People’s Democratic Party (Turk. Halkların Demokratik Partisi or HDP) of Selahatin Demirtas of collusion with the PKK.
The HDP is in fact a secular and non-violent in orientation. However, it is "guilty" of winning 13 per cent of the vote in last June elections, denying the AKP an absolute majority in parliament.
According to many observers, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (Turk. Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi or AKP) have tried to use the anti-terror campaign to regain votes it lost in the last election by claiming that only they can avert chaos.
Many of the victims in the Ankara attack and a previous one Suruç, which killed 32 people, were HDP members. Following the 10 October attack, the HDP decided not to organise any more political rallies, but carry out instead a low-key campaign.
The latest public opinion polls indicate that support for the AKP is hovering around 41-43 per cent, not enough to win an absolute majority.