A car bombing blamed on Kurdish militants rocked the Turkish city of Izmir today, killing at least two people and triggering a deadly shootout, as authorities chased the fugitive killer behind the New Year attack in Istanbul. Turkey is on edge after the shooting rampage at the Reina nightclub unleashed shortly after revellers rang in 2017 which killed 39 people and was claimed by the Islamic State group.
A top official said gunman may be a Turkic Uighur and several people of Uighur origin were arrested earlier.
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Just four days after the nightclub carnage, a car bomb exploded outside a courthouse in the Aegean city of Izmir this afternoon, with authorities blaming the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
A policeman and a court worker, reportedly a bailiff, were killed, Deputy Prime Minister Veysel Kaynak told reporters.
Police battled “terrorists” in a clash which saw two militants killed. Another escaped and is now being pursued, he added.
The usually peaceful port city, Turkey’s third largest metropolis, is the gateway to the plush beach resorts of the Aegean and rarely sees violence on this scale. It is west of the PKK’s main theatre in the southeast of the country.
Izmir governor Erol Ayyildiz said that initial evidence suggested the PKK — which has fought a deadly insurgency for over three decades — was behind the attack.
He said the policeman tried to stop the car before it exploded and the “terrorists” then sought to escape as the explosion went off and the gunfight began. Up to seven people were wounded, he added.
Ayyildiz praised the actions of policeman Fethi Sekin who carried out the control, saying “he was martyred but prevented the loss of many more lives”.
“Looking at the ammunition, it seems the aim was a massive massacre,” said Kaynak. Reports said that two Kalashnikovs, seven rockets and eight grenades were seized.
Turkish authorities meanwhile were seeking to close in on the Istanbul club attacker, who slipped into the night after spraying 120 bullets at terrified partygoers celebrating New Year.
Of the 39 dead, 27 were foreigners including citizens from Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Iraq, India and Morocco.
A top official said the attacker was likely a Turkic Uighur and reports have indicated the authorities are looking into the possible existence of a cell, also including other jihadists from Central Asia.
IS took responsibility for the massacre in a statement on Monday, the first time it has issued a clear and undisputed claim for a major attack inside Turkey.
The extremist group said it was a response to Ankara’s military operation against the jihadists in northern Syria, where Turkish armed forces are supporting opposition fighters retaking territory from IS.
Kaynak earlier told A Haber broadcaster that the attacker was “probably” of Uighur origin.