Police detained almost a thousand people in raids across Türkiye on Tuesday, including dozens with alleged links to Kurdish militants and an opposition news anchor, days after a suicide bomb attack in the Turkish capital.
Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said police carried out raids in 16 Turkish provinces, detaining 55 people suspected of being part of the “intelligence structure” of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. At least 12 other suspected PKK members were rounded up in a separate operation in five provinces, Yerlikaya wrote on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
The PKK claimed responsibility for the suicide attack, according to a news website close to the group. The group has led a decades-long insurgency in Türkiye and is considered a terror organization by the United States and the European Union. Tens of thousands of people have died since the start of the conflict in 1984.
A 73-year-old news anchor was also detained Tuesday after questioning details of the official account of the attack on opposition broadcaster Halk TV.
Aysenur Arslan was detained in her home after prosecutors accused her of “terrorist propaganda” and “praising criminal activity” for comments made during her television program on Monday morning.
Press freedoms in Türkiye have eroded during President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ’s tenure, according to international monitors.
Much of the media has oriented itself to support Erdogan, while the few broadcasters that regularly criticize his policies are hit with fines or blackouts by the Turkish media watchdog RTUK. Türkiye ranked 149th out of 180 countries in press freedom index of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in 2022.
The interior minister later said that an additional 928 people suspected of holding unlicensed firearms or being connected to firearms smuggling were arrested during the operation, but he did not immediately make it clear if the suspects arrested for illegal firearms were suspected of connections to the PKK.
He added that over 840 firearms were confiscated during the operation.
On Sunday, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive device near an entrance to the Interior Ministry hours before Erdogan was set to address Parliament as it returned from its summer recess. A second would-be bomber was killed in a shootout with police.
Two police officers were slightly wounded in the attack. The suspects arrived at the scene inside a vehicle they seized from a veterinarian in the central Turkish of Kayseri after shooting him in the head, officials said.
Turkish authorities identified one of the assailants as a PKK militant. Hours later, Türkiye’s Air Force carried out airstrikes on suspected PKK sites in northern Iraq, where the group's leadership is based. The Defense Ministry said a large number of PKK militants were “neutralized” in the strikes.
Yerlikaya did not clarify whether the people rounded up on Tuesday were suspected of direct involvement in Sunday’s attack.