Turkey Sacks Top Cops After Ankara Attacks
Ankara (AFP) – Turkey on Wednesday sacked Ankara’s top police chief and two other officials as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan admitted security shortcomings over a double suicide bombing in the capital that killed 99.
There has been growing anger against Erdogan and the government for alleged security lapses over the worst attack in modern Turkey’s history in which two suicide bombers blew themselves up in a crowd of peace activists on Saturday.
Announcing the first dismissals in the wake of the disaster, the interior ministry said Ankara police chief Kadri Kartal as well the head of the city’s police intelligence and security departments had been removed from their posts.
It said they had been sacked on the suggestion of investigators “to allow for a healthy investigation” into the atrocity. In his first public remarks on the bombings late Tuesday, Erdogan admitted there were security shortcomings and ordered the State Supervisory Council (DDK), an inspection body attached to the presidency, to undertake a special investigation.
On Wednesday, Erdogan made his first visit to the site of the bombings outside Ankara’s main railway station, laying flowers for the victims alongside visiting Finnish President Sauli Niinisto.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu meanwhile announced that the toll from the bombings had risen from 97 to 99 dead, and that one Palestinian man was among those killed.
“Ninety-four corpses have been returned to the families and four corpses are to be given to families who have been informed,” Davutoglu told Show TV in an interview.
– ‘Bombers identified’ –
The attack has raised political tensions to new highs as Turkey prepares for a snap election on November 1, with polarisation within the country now greater than ever.
The bombing targeted thousands of people gathering for a peace rally called by labour unions, leftist groups and pro-Kurdish activists over the government’s current offensive against Kurdish militants.
In protests held since the bloodshed, demonstrators have held up banners reading: “killer Erdogan” and “we know the killer!” although the authorities have angrily ridiculed claims of state complicity.
The government has said the Islamic State group is the prime suspect behind the bombings, which wounded more than 500 people. Erdogan has said the attack had its roots in Syria, where IS militants have captured swathes of territory up to the Turkish border.
There have been growing indications that the authorities are focussing on possible parallels or even links to a July 20 suicide bombing at a peace rally in Suruc on the Syrian border — also blamed on IS — that killed 34 people.
The Hurriyet daily said the authorities now believe one of the Ankara suicide bombers was Yunus Emre Alagoz, brother of the Suruc bomber Abdurrahman Alagoz.
The other is believed to be Omer Deniz Dundar who had twice been to Syria since 2013, it said, adding that both had arrived in Ankara in two separate cars from the southeastern city of Gaziantep near the Syrian border.
Federal prosecutors in Ankara immediately slapped a ban on reporting any details of the investigation, the official Anatolia news agency said. Over the weekend and on Monday, police arrested dozens of people with suspected links to the IS group in cities stretching from the Mediterranean resort of Antalya to the southern city of Adana.
Turkey’s NATO allies have long pointed the finger at Ankara for not taking a tougher line as IS militants seized swathes of northern Iraq and Syria.
But following months of Western pressure, Turkey is now a full member of the US-led coalition against IS and allowing American jets to use its Incirlik air base for raids, potentially making it a more likely target for IS attacks.
– Arrests over tweet –
Turkish officials said two people with alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) had been detained on suspicion of having prior knowledge of the attack and sharing the information nine hours beforehand on Twitter.
“This is an interesting turn of events,” an official told AFP. “We are questioning how they can have had advance knowledge.” In a statement, the government said the @DrBereday account which has been closed had predicted that bombs would explode in Ankara.
For almost three months, Turkey has been waging an offensive against PKK militants who have responded with attacks of their own, killing over 140 members of the security forces.
The foreign ministry on Wednesday said it had summoned the Russian and US ambassadors to warn against any support for Kurdish armed groups in Syria, including the main Democratic Unity Party (PYD).