Turkey was struck by another terror attack on Thursday, this time in its coastal province of Izmir, killing at least four people and bringing the violence to areas that were previously immune to such attacks.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told reporters following the attack that a sacrifice by a police officer prevented a larger attack with a possibly higher death toll. He put the blame on the Kurdish insurgent group called the PKK and said rounding attacks by terrorist groups are a sign that they are gasping for final breaths. Pro-Kurdish party HDP quickly condemned the attack.
İzmir’den arkadaşlar attı çatışma anı. pic.twitter.com/R4EmdkjYvI
— amelelerin amelesi (@ameleosa) January 5, 2017
The car bombing attack, usually a tactic used by Islamist extremists in Syria and Iraq, was second terror assault in less than a week. Last week, a lone gunman killed 39 New Year’s Eve revelers in Istanbul’s iconic Reina nightclub. ISIS claimed responsibility for the shooting spree.
Another CCTV footage of the Izmir blast. pic.twitter.com/d2cfWxo0v3
— Mahir Zeynalov (@MahirZeynalov) January 5, 2017
The attackers in Izmir planned to detonate the car closer to the courthouse, but a vigilant police officer, Fethi Sekin, foiled the plot by stopping the car. The attackers got off the car and detonated it, killing a court clerk and wounding several civilians, including lawyers. Officer Sekin chased the terrorists armed with AK-47 automatic rifles and killed two of them. He was later gunned down. It was not clear if there was a third attacker and the police have launched an operation to find the third terrorist.
The officer was hailed on the social media as a hero who saved Izmir from a much larger tragedy. The officer’s individual fight against the terrorists was a sigh of relief for the government, who was under fire in recent weeks over failing security apparatus. The unceasing purge and reshuffling of the police structure crippled the law enforcement, who repeatedly failed to intercept or prevent a series of bombing attacks in major cities.
— Rudaw English (@RudawEnglish) January 5, 2017
On Tuesday, Turkish Parliament voted to extend the state of emergency rule that allows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to rule the country by decrees. The attack in Izmir prompted criticisms from rights activists, who claimed that the emergency rule was put in place to purge dissidents, not to prevent terrorist attacks.
Since December 10, ISIS and a Kurdish insurgent group called TAK carried out terrorist attacks, killing scores of police officers and civilians. A radicalized police officer, denouncing tyranny in Aleppo, killed the Russian ambassador last month.
ISIS, PKK and TAK are all listed as terrorist groups by Ankara.
Shortly after the Izmir attack, Turkish state media watchdog, later backed by a court ruling, ordered media — print, digital and broadcast, not to cover the bombing attack.