On 17 February, 28 people – mostly soldiers – were killed by a car bomb attack in the Turkish capital of Ankara. A further 64 were wounded.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu almost immediately tried to pin the blame on the People’s Defence Units of Rojava – the YPG. Anyone familiar with the situation in the Middle East will know that this is unlikely to be true. Even more so when the organisation blamed has vehemently denied the accusation.
Kurdish forces vehemently deny involvement
The official YPG spokesman Rêdûr Xelîl denied involvement in the attack:
As did the General Command of the YPG:
we as YPG have engaged in no military activity against neighboring states… [The Turkish is] deliberately distorting the truth… We have no links to this incident… we have never been involved in an attack against Turkey.
Insisting that Davutoğlu was lying, the YPG said:
Davutoğlu wants to pave the way for an offensive on Syria and Rojava, and to cover up their relations with the ISIS which is known to the whole world by now.
At the same time, the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) condemned the bombing:
Salih Muslim, co-leader of the PYD – the biggest political party in Rojava – also denied involvement with the Ankara bombing. Instead, he said the accusations had been “fabricated by the Turkish side”, and that Turkey was “trying to escalate” the situation in Syria.
PKK leader Cemil Bayik, meanwhile, insisted that PKK had no idea about who carried out the attack. Another PKK commander claimed the attack was part of Turkey’s plan to justify war in Syria:
Why is Kurdish involvement in the attack so unlikely?
Many followers of Kurdish issues in the Middle East remarked on how ludicrous Davutoğlu’s assertions were. If the YPG, PYD or PKK had played any role in the attack, they would almost certainly have owned up to it. The PKK, for example, has been happy to admit to attacks on the Turkish army that it has planned. So why would it now shy away from owning up to a successful attack on the Turkish military?
Michael Stephens, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies, asks precisely this question:
And Cizîra Botan, a PKK supporter on Twitter, sees no reason why Rojavan forces would risk their reputation with an uncharacteristic attack on Turkish soil?
Macer Gifford, who has fought alongside the YPG in Rojava, said the Turkish State was:
trying to manufacture an incident that justifies any future action in Syria. What on earth does the YPG have to gain from attacking Turkey!? The accusation is absurd
Gifford then suggests that, just as Turkey had shot down a Russian plane in November 2015 to rally NATO around its anti-Kurdish war, Ankara was now “aiming to do the same again”. He continued, insisting:
Jowan Mahmod Ezat, meanwhile, questioned the speed of the State’s investigation:
A ‘false flag’ attack to justify war against Rojava?
With Turkey immediately bombing a Rojavan city of 200 thousand inhabitants and tens of thousands of refugees, the idea of a ‘false flag’ bombing – where Turkish forces orchestrated the Ankara bombing themselves to justify an attack on Rojava – became more and more likely:
Both the Guardian and RT have also argued this point.
Finian Cunningham spoke at RT about how Turkey’s President Erdoğan was “playing Washington”. The Ankara attack, he said, had come:
at a crucial time just when the Erdogan government is trying to woo Washington’s support for its military intervention in Syria.
The “sophisticated style” of the attack, with “precision timing” and in a “part of the capital is normally kept under tight security”, was a strong indication, he said, that “a state military agency” had been behind the attack. A further indication, meanwhile, was the fact that:
it would seem entirely stupid of the YPG or its Kurdish affiliates in Turkey to carry out a terror attack in the capital… The YPG have gained a lot of favorable international media attention recently from their effective fight against IS and related jihadist terror brigades in northern Syria, including Jabhat al Nusra and Ahrar al Shams… The Kurdish fighters are this week set to close in on the jihadist stronghold of Azaz, a town on the Syrian-Turkish border… The Kurds would only be squandering valuable international political support by committing such an atrocity.
Finally, Cunningham deals a massive blow to Ankara’s accusations about YPG involvement in the recent attack:
Azaz is a major supply route for the regime-change insurgents, which the MIT has been implicated in facilitating… if the terror attack can be pinned on the YPG, that would serve Erdogan very conveniently [because he would have a justification for entering into Syria to protect his mercenaries in Azaz].
The Guardian agreed, insisting that “blaming Kurds suits Erdoğan’s political ends”. The idea that Davutoğlu and co. had somehow “uncovered the identity, birthplace, personal history and political affiliation of the alleged bomber within hours of the attack looks suspicious”, the paper said. To add further doubt, it reminded readers that after the terrorist attack in Ankara in October 2015, Erdoğan had “quickly accused the PKK… and Syrian Kurds of blowing up their own people”, but that it was later revealed that the blasts were linked to Daesh.
In short, there is significant reason to distrust the current Turkish regime and its apparently ludicrous assertions about progressive Kurdish forces.
Note: On 19 February, the nationalist/separatist Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (or TAK) claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it had been carried out to “avenge the massacre of defenseless, injured civilians” in southeast Turkey. It also warned tourists to stay away from Turkish resorts – hoping to hit the industry and weaken Ankara’s economic position.
The TAK is a group suspected to have been founded by Kurdish militants who disagreed with the ideological and strategic changes made by the PKK since 1999. The Jamestown Foundation insists that while the PKK mainly attacks “military and political targets”, the TAK has “deliberately attacked Turkish and foreign civilians” in the past. The foundation stresses that the TAK is “a marginal, but more radical, alternative” to the PKK, as opposed to a connected organisation.