Slain Turkish policeman hailed for preventing bloodbath
ISTANBUL: Police detained 18 people yesterday in connection with an attack near a courthouse in the western city of Izmir that killed a policeman and a courthouse employee. Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said yesterday that Turkish authorities had no doubt that the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, “gave the orders” for the attack. The two assailants were killed in a shootout with police in Thursday’s incident in Izmir, Turkey’s third-largest city, after they detonated an explosives-laden vehicle at a roadblock. The attackers were armed with automatic rifles, rocket launchers and hand grenades, officials said. Bozdag spoke before thousands of people at a memorial service for the slain police officer, Fethi Sekin, who authorities say thwarted a larger attack. He said 18 suspects were rounded up, but did not provide details. T
here was no immediate responsibility claim. The attack was the latest in a string of assaults carried out by Kurdish militants or the Islamic State group that have hit Turkey as it is still grappling with the aftermath of a failed coup in July that has been blamed on a movement led by US-based Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen. It came just days after 39 people were killed in a nightclub in Istanbul during New Year’s celebrations.
The IS group claimed that attack which it said was a reprisal for Turkey’s military operations in Syria. Turkey gave a hero’s funeral yesterday to a policeman praised for preventing a massacre in the latest attack to shake the country, as reports suggested the Istanbul nightclub gunman may still be in the city. Turkey was shaken just 75 minutes into the New Year by the gun attack on the Reina nightclub in Istanbul that killed 39 people, including 27 foreigners.
Then four days later on Thursday, militants detonated an explosives-packed car in front of the main courthouse in the western city of Izmir and engaged in gun battles with police. A policeman and a court worker were killed, as well as two attackers. Another was still on the run. Nine people were wounded but their lives are not believed to be in danger. Whereas Islamic State (IS) jihadists had claimed the Istanbul nightclub attack-the group’s first ever claim of a major attack in Turkey-the government blamed the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) for the Izmir bloodshed.
Turkish officials led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hailed the heroism of slain Izmir policeman Fethi Sekin, who prevented even greater loss of life by stopping the car and then seeking to chase down the militants. “Did you not see yesterday in Izmir our police officer who jumped like a lion to neutralise the terrorist and was martyred?” Erdogan asked during a rally Friday in Sanliurfa, southeastern Turkey. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim paid tribute late Thursday to the officer who “prevented a greater disaster by ignoring his own life and by giving his life.” Turkish football team Galatasaray, which Sekin supported, said it would offer an educational scholarship to his son and other opportunities at the club.