A huge car bomb killed at least nine people in the largest city in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast region Friday, shortly after authorities detained a dozen Kurdish lawmakers in relation to a terrorism investigation.
The violence and the arrests come as Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been increasingly criticized by his NATO allies in Europe for veering toward authoritarianism and away from the democratic values they share.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said up to 100 people were also wounded in the Diyarbakir bombing, the Associated Press reported. Yildirim said two police officers, a technician and five civilians were among those killed.
The incident took place near a building used by riot police and came hours after authorities detained at least 12 pro-Kurdish legislators from the People’s Democratic Party, or HDP, for questioning in terror-related probes. The Diyarbakir governor’s office said Friday’s bomb may have been planted by rebels of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, according to the AP.
There were no immediate claims of responsibility.
Turkey’s interior ministry said the lawmakers were arrested for not appearing in court for questioning regarding alleged terrorism and “terrorist propaganda,” according to Turkey-owned Andalou Agency. The arrests came in the form of simultaneous police raids on members’ homes, together with a blackout of social media and messaging platforms including Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp.
Prosecutors are investigating the lawmakers’ role in calling supporters into the streets in October 2014, after Islamic State militants took the Syrian town of Kobani, Andalou reported. Those protests resulted in several deaths, including two police officers. The government accuses the HDP of being the political arm of the PKK, a claim the party rejects.
HDP lawmakers warned when parliament revoked members’ immunity last May that they would not willingly participate in investigations, according to a statement provided by the Turkish embassy in Washington.
“The arrests are just the last step in five days of non-stop repression” against Turkey’s Kurdish minority and their leaders, who represent the third-largest voting block in parliament, said Aykan Erdemir, an analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracy.
Erdemir was referring to a series of actions ordered by Erdogan starting Oct. 29, when he issued two emergency decrees.
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SOURCE: USA Today, Oren Dorell, Jane Onyanga-Omara and Kim Hjelmgaard