Kurdish TAK militants warn tourists against visiting Istanbul

Published June 11th, 2016 - 10:00 GMT
People walk inside the spice bazaar in Eminonu district, in Istanbul on June 9, 2016. (AFP/Ozan Kose)
People walk inside the spice bazaar in Eminonu district, in Istanbul on June 9, 2016. (AFP/Ozan Kose)

An offshoot of the Kurdish militant group the PKK said on Friday that it carried out a suicide bombing in Istanbul earlier this week and warned that Turkey is no longer safe for foreign tourists.

A car bomb ripped through a police bus in the city center during Tuesday morning’s rush hour near the main tourist district, killing 11 people, six of them police officers.

In a statement on its website, the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK) vowed to continue attacks and said that while it was not targeting holidaymakers, they could be at risk.

“Some may miss peace, but we have just started the war,” the group said in its statement.

Turkey, the world’s sixth-biggest tourist destination, has seen a sharp drop in visitors amid concerns about deteriorating security after bombings in Istanbul, Ankara and this week,in Midyat in the southeast.

Arrivals saw the biggest drop in 17 years in April, while average hotel occupancy rates are down nearly 70 percent nationally, according to industry data.

In this context, authorities are taking steps to try to support the Turkish tourism industry.

Peace negotiations between the PKK and the state collapsed last July, triggering the worst violence in the southeast since the peak of the unrest in the 1990s. Thousands of militants and hundreds of security officials have since been killed.

ISIL has also been blamed for bombings in Turkey, with unrest fuelled by the war in neighbouring Syria.

Turkey says the PKK – considered a "terrorist group" by the European Union and the United States – has deep ties to the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia fighting just across the border.

Turkish jets bombed the southeastern region of Daglica in Hakkari province, near the border with Iraq, killing between eight and 10 suspected PKK militants, military sources said on Friday. The military also said in a statement that it had hit PKK targets elsewhere in Hakkari on Thursday.

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