ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — A suicide bomber detonated an explosive device in the heart of the Turkish capital, Ankara, on Sunday, while a second assailant was killed in a shootout with police, the interior minister said.
The attack occurred hours before Parliament was set to reopen after its three-month summer recess with an address by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Two police officers were slightly injured during the attack near an entrance to the Ministry of Interior Affairs, minister Ali Yerlikaya said on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. The attack was conducted by assailants who arrived at the scene inside a light commercial vehicle, he said.
“Our heroic police officers, through their intuition, resisted the terrorists as soon as they got out of the vehicle,” Yerlikaya later told reporters. “One of them blew himself up while the other one was shot in the head before he had a chance to blow himself up.”
“Our fight against terrorism, their collaborators, the (drug) dealers, gangs and organized crime organizations will continue with determination,” he said.
The minister did not say who was behind the attack and there was no immediate claim of responsibility. Kurdish and far-left militant groups as well as the Islamic State group have carried out deadly attacks throughout the country in the past.
In his speech in parliament, Erdogan called the attack “the last stand of terrorism.”
“The scoundrels who targeted the peace and security of the citizens could not achieve their goals and they never will,” he said.
The president reiterated his government’s aim to create a 30-kilometer (20 mile) safe zone along its border with Syria to secure its southern border from attacks.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives as he is welcomed by an official ceremony ahead of the opening of 28th Term, 2nd Legislative Year of the Turkish Grand National Assembly in Ankara, on October 1, 2023. In his speech in parliament, Erdogan called an attack that occurred near the Interior Ministry “the last stand of terrorism.”
Adem Altan/AFP via Getty Images
Turkey has launched several incursions into northern Syria since 2016 to drive away the Islamic State group and a Kurdish militia group, known by the initials YPG, from the frontier, and controls swaths of territory in the area.
Turkey views the YPG as an extension of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which is listed as a terror group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. The PKK has waged an insurgency against Turkey since 1984. Tens of thousands of people have died in the conflict.
Last year, a bomb blast in a bustling pedestrian street in Istanbul left six people dead, including two children. More than 80 others were wounded. Turkey blamed the attack on the PKK and the YPG.
The state-run Anadolu Agency reported that the two attackers on Sunday had seized the vehicle in the central province of Kayseri from a veterinarian. The pro-government daily Sabah reported that they shot the man in the head and threw his body into a ditch by the side of the road. They then drove the vehicle to Ankara, roughly 300 kilometers (200 miles) away.
Security camera footage on Sunday showed the vehicle stopping in front of the ministry, with a man exiting it and rushing toward the entrance of the building before blowing himself up. A second man is seen following him.
Earlier, television footage showed bomb squads working near a vehicle in the area, which is located near the Turkish Grand National Assembly and other government buildings. A rocket launcher could be seen lying near the vehicle.
Turkish authorities later imposed a temporary blackout on images from the scene.
Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc said an investigation has been launched into the “terror attack.”
“These attacks will in no way hinder Turkey’s fight against terrorism,” he wrote on X. “Our fight against terrorism will continue with more determination.”
Police cordoned off access to the city center and increased security measures, warning citizens that they would be conducting controlled explosions of suspicious packages.
The two police officers were being treated in a hospital and were not in serious condition, Yerlikaya said.
Egypt, which has normalized ties with Turkey after a decade of tensions, condemned the attack. A terse statement from the Foreign Ministry offered Egypt’s solidarity with Turkey.
The U.S. Embassy in Ankara and other foreign missions also issued messages condemning the attack.
Erdogan in his speech did not provide any indication as to when Turkey’s parliament may ratify Sweden’s membership in NATO.
Stockholm applied for NATO membership alongside Finland following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year. While Finland has since joined, Turkey blocked Sweden’s membership in the military alliance, accusing it of not doing enough to tackle groups like PKK from operating on its soil. In a posting on X, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said Stockholm “strongly condemns today’s terrorist attack in Ankara. We reaffirm our commitment to long-term cooperation with Türkiye in combatting terrorism and wish for quick and full recovery of the ones injured.”
Associated Press writers Cinar Kiper in Bodrum, Turkey, Robert Badendieck in Istanbul, and Jari Tanner in Helsinki, Finland contributed.
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