The outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) on Wednesday claimed a bomb attack on a police headquarters in the Kurdish majority of Diyarbakir that killed three, days ahead of a key vote on expanding President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powers.
Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said the blast at the police headquarters in the southeastern city was a “terror attack”, a day after he indicated that it was an accident.
The blast, which could be heard in several areas across the city, added to security jitters just days ahead of Sunday’s referendum on expanding Erdogan’s powers.
In a statement carried by the Firat news agency, the PKK said its militants had carried out the attack in retaliation for the treatment of Kurds by the authorities in particular those in jails.
It said the “fascist alliance” of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the opposition Nationalist Movement Party MHP), which backs the constitutional changes in the referendum, was aiming to cement the “fascist system” with the executive presidency.
The southeast has been battered by renewed fighting between Kurdish rebels and Turkish security forces since a fragile truce collapsed in 2015.
The PKK has been waging an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984 during which over 40,000 people have been killed.
The group is designated by Ankara, the United States and the European Union as a terror group. Diyarbakir has been the scene of repeated attacks by PKK militants.
Images from the scene showed that the force of the blast created a large crater and caused considerable destruction to the building.
The government had initially said that Tuesday’s explosion occurred during repairs on armoured vehicles.
Speaking on Haber-Turk television, Soylu said it was caused by individuals laying explosives underneath the police headquarters after digging a tunnel.
“It was a terror attack,” he said.
“We had first thought that someone had entered and laid (explosives) but they carried it out through a tunnel dug from outside,” he said.
“We scan the surrounding of our police buildings approximately once in every month, so as not to encounter any threat. It means they had placed them (the explosives) a short time ago.”
A statement from the governor’s office confirmed one police officer and two civilian personnel were killed and said one tonne of explosives had been used.
“A 30-metre tunnel had been dug from the adjacent building,” it said.
The PKK also said that a tunnel had been dug under the police headquarters and its militants had safely “returned to base” afterwards.
Turkish police detained five suspects on Tuesday and 172 more on Wednesday, the governor’s office said, adding that an investigation was under way.