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A splinter Kurdish militant group has claimed responsibility for a suicide car bombing that killed at least 28 people in Ankara. The Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK) said it was behind the massive explosion in the heart of the Turkish capital that also injured more than 60 people on 17 Feburary.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had earlier tried to pin responsibility upon TAK's former parent group, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and its Syrian allies, the YPG. The TAK leadership however maintains it has severed ties with the PKK.
The group is known to have carried out attacks outside PKK heartlands in the south-east in the past, including a deadly mortar strike at the Sabiha Gokcen airport in Istanbul in December.
In an online statement, it said the Ankara bombing was in retaliation for a military crackdown in Kurdish-majority areas of the country. "This act was conducted to avenge the massacre of defenseless, injured civilians," it said, in reference to heavy-handed security operation against rebels in the town of Cizre.
Authorities had previously identified the suicide bomber as a Syrian national with links to the YPG named as Saleh Nejar. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu claimed Nejar had entered the country posing as a refugee and planned the attack in concert with the PKK. The YPG's political wing, the PYD, has however denied any involvement.
Ankara used the circumstance to bash the US for its support of the YPG, which Washington considers a key ally in the fight against the Islamic State (Isis) in Syria. On 19 February Erdogan said he was "saddened" by the West's insistence in considering the YPG and the PKK as separate entities.
"What else do you (the West) want from us? We have given you all the documents and information," he said, adding authorities didn't "have the slightest doubt" that a Syrian Kurds were to blame for the bombing in Ankara.
The heated rhetoric seemed to prelude to an expansions of Turkish operations in Syria. Turkish forces have shelled Kurdish positions across the border in recent days and an editorial by pro-government newspaper Daily Sabah on 19 February said it was time for the government to put boots on the ground.
17 people have so far been arrested in connection with the attack that targeted buses carrying military personnel.
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