Seven police officers have been killed and at least 27 people wounded in an explosion in the mainly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir in south-east Turkey.
A security source said a remotely-operated car bomb went off as a police vehicle drove past the city’s main bus terminal on Thursday.
The attack, blamed on Kurdish militants, took place on the eve of a rare visit by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, whose government has waged a relentless campaign against Kurdish rebels since last summer, to central Diyarbakir on Friday.
Ambulances rushed to the scene, where images showed the police bus reduced to a burnt-out wreck by the force of the blast. Of the 27 wounded, 14 were civilians and 13 police officers.
The blast damaged several cars and shattered almost all the windows of a high rise building nearby.
A military hospital where some of the wounded were reportedly taken declined to comment on casualties.
The private Dogan news agency blamed ‘terrorists’ for the incident, using the government designation for Kurdish rebels.
An opposition politician based in Diyarbakir, Omer Tastan, confirmed there had been an explosion in the city, which has suffered renewed violence between security forces and Kurdish militants.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is in Washington on a hugely sensitive visit to the U.S., confirmed the death toll and said the attack showed the world the true nature of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
‘We cannot tolerate this any more. European countries and other countries, I hope they can see the true face of terrorists in these attacks,’ he said.
Erdogan has been infuriated in recent months by U.S. backing of Kurdish militias in Syria, which Ankara sees as the Syrian branch of the PKK and has claimed some EU states tolerate the group on their territory.
He argued that the Kurdish rebels are as dangerous as the fighters of the Islamic State group, which has become the West’s main target in Syria.
Erdogan told his audience at the Brookings Institution think tank – where Turkish security and pro-Kurdish protesters clashed ahead of his speech – that the whole world must come together to fight terror.
Turkish forces are engaged in an operation against Kurdish rebels from the PKK in the region.
Hundreds of security force members have been killed since the PKK resumed its more than three-decade insurgency last summer.
The new upsurge of violence between the security forces and Kurdish rebels erupted in July 2015, shattering a two-and-a-half year truce.
President Erdogan said this week that 355 members of the security forces had been killed in the fighting, along with 5,359 members of the PKK. It was not possible to confirm the toll on the rebel side.
More than 40,000 people have been killed since the PKK took up arms in 1984, demanding a homeland for Turkey’s biggest minority.
Since then, the group has pared back its demands to focus on cultural rights and a measure of autonomy.
A radical PKK offshoot, the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), claimed responsibility for two suicide car bombings in Ankara this year that left dozens dead.
Some analysts believe members of the TAK broke away from the PKK after growing disenchanted with the group and demanding even more radical actions.
Turkish air force planes have bombed PKK hideouts in mountains across the border in northern Iraq as well as in remote areas of southeast Turkey.
Ankara has vowed to smash the PKK, and authorities have imposed curfews in several towns in the region because of the fierce clashes.
Kurdish activists have accused the government of masking the extent of the civilian toll from the fighting and also vastly exaggerating the PKK losses.
The government denies the claims, saying the operations were an essential move against the PKK which had put up barricades and dug trenches in a bid to take over Turkish urban centres.
In more bloodshed, two children aged four and six were killed in the Kurdish-dominated southern town of Cizre by explosives they had found lying in the street.