U.S. Consulate Targeted As Violent Attacks Sweep Across Turkey
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
There was a wave of violent attacks across Turkey today, both in the mostly Kurdish southeast and in the largest Turkish city, Istanbul. That's where we reached Nick Tattersall. He's the Reuters bureau chief there. And we started by talking about the attack today on the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul.
NICK TATTERSALL: So shortly before the consulate opened this morning, reports came in of an attack on the building by two assailants. The assailants were later identified by witnesses as two women, one of whom was caught by the security forces and was wounded in an exchange of fire with police as the attack happened. What we know from witness testimony is that the two attackers opened fire outside the embassy building and that Turkish police officers who were guarding the building returned fire. When they did so, the attackers ran away.
BLOCK: Now, the group that's being blamed for the attack is called the attacks is called the Revolutionary People's Liberation Army Front. Talk a bit about who they are and what they stand for.
TATTERSALL: Well, the DHKP-C is a far-leftist group that has claimed responsibility in the past for attacks on U.S. interests. It's also been responsible for a number of attacks on police stations, particularly in the suburbs of Istanbul.
BLOCK: And also in Istanbul, there was a deadly car bombing at a police station today.
TATTERSALL: That's right. Overnight at about 1 o'clock in the morning Turkish time, a car bomb exploded at a police station in the Sultanbeyli district of Istanbul. That's on the Asian side of the city. There were several people killed in subsequent firefight. What we understand to have happened is that a Turkish police bomb squad came to investigate the attack and then came under fire.
BLOCK: And there were also other attacks today in the south of Turkey. Are these attacks being seen as a direct response by militants to the fact that Turkey has escalated its involvement, forcefully joining in in air strikes against the Islamic State?
TATTERSALL: That's right. There were two attacks today, one on a Turkish police armored vehicle which was hit with roadside explosives. That killed four police officers. In a separate attack, Kurdish militants opened fire on a military helicopter, killing one soldier and wounding seven. Those attacks are the latest in a series on the security forces both on police and the military, predominantly in the Kurdish southeast. Turkey launched airstrikes against the PKK. That's the Kurdish militant - the Kurdish - Kurdistan Workers' Party. They launched airstrikes against the Islamic State and opened its bases to the U.S.-led coalition several weeks ago and, at the same time, began or renewed airstrikes on PKK camps in Northern Iraq. Describing it as a synchronized war on terror, it also carried out the series of detentions, arresting more than 1,300 people, many of them Kurdish militants, also far-leftist militants and members of the Islamic State.
The uptick in violence that we've seen in the southeast is certainly linked in part to those airstrikes. It's also tied, in a deeper way, to the campaign against Islamic State. Kurdish activists in Turkey have, for a long time, accused the government of Prime Minister - of President Erdogan of supporting Islamic State against Kurdish militia fighters in Syria. And they're skeptical about Turkey's stepping up its campaign against the Islamic State. They believe it's a screen, a cover, if you like, for increasing attacks on Kurdish militant groups in Iraq and in Turkey.
BLOCK: That's Nick Tattersall. He's the Istanbul bureau chief for the Reuters news service. Nick, thanks very much.
TATTERSALL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.