Two hundred Islamic State members were “rendered ineffective” during strikes on five bases in Syria and Iraq in 48 hours, said Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Thursday, using his euphemism for “killed.” With this announcement in Ankara, Davutoglu introduced the government’s new “determined stance” against the jihadist organization, following a suicide bombing in Istanbul on Tuesday and a car bombing on Wednesday. Davutoglu stressed that offensives will continue until the Islamic State abandons its border areas.
Even as the Turkish public wonders why the Islamic State, or ISIS, has not claimed responsibility for the attack, Interior Minister Efkan Ala announced that seven people have now been arrested for suspected links to ISIS and the attack in Sultanahmet district of Istanbul. This has not stopped the violence, which escalated Wednesday when a remote car bomb detonated at a police station in Cinar, a district of southeastern Diyarbakir Province.
That attack, attributed by authorities to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, killed six people, including three children. It’s yet another open wound in an area already battered by fighting between Kurdish separatists and the Turkish police, which for several weeks has unsettled urban centers in the region.
Davutoglu reiterated that the fight against ISIS will continue hand in hand with the fight against the PKK, in the same way it has fought against the “parallel structure” — President Tayyip Erdogan’s term for the movement of imam and magnate Fethullah Gulen, who has been included for more than a year on the government’s terrorism list.
“It is necessary to consider the link of this organization [Gulen’s] with the terrorist organization [the PKK],” the premier said. He added that “2015 was the year we were forced to fight against various crises,” not excluding the “accusations of Armenians.”
The premier also lashed out against the group Academics for Peace (Baris icin Akademisyenler, in Turkish) which called on the government to resume peace negotiations with the Kurds.
“After witnessing the examples in Syria and Iraq, fractured because of identity strife, I don’t attempt intellectual debates with those who want to put Turkey in the same situation. In fact I will fight them as prime minister of the Turkish Republic,” said Davutoglu, ensuring that “everyone will get what they deserve in this fight.” But according to several observers, the prime minister’s attitude and violent language, like Erdogan’s, won’t create a suitable environment to solve Turkey’s dramatic problems.
“It is in such a climate of violence that the country has become open to ‘terrorism,’” writes Cengiz Candar in the newspaper Radikal. “But the leaders, far from having learned a lesson from the ‘terrorist acts’ have harshened their own language, making it more and more violent. … And yet they have not targeted the most important source of terror, that is ISIS, instead wasting more effort on actions to crush and keep pressure on the Kurds.” He added that “not even the bombing of Sultanahmet has broken this discourse. For this reason, the ‘situation’ in which we find ourselves is much more serious after the Sultanahmet attack.”
Meanwhile, to complicate matters, the pro-government press is endorsing new conspiracy theories. After the arrest of three Russians suspected of belonging to ISIS, the Turkish daily Sabah reported that Russia, in cahoots with Iran and Bashar al-Assad, was responsible for the Sultanahmet attack. Davutoglu echoed the theory that Russia would not want to damage ISIS, saying that Russian jets “appear to be protecting ISIS within Syrian air space.”