Two militants kill themselves in standoff with Turkish police

ANKARA (REUTERS) – Two militants believed to be preparing a car bomb attack detonated explosives, killing themselves in a remote area near Ankara on Saturday (Oct 8) after Turkish police told them to surrender, the provincial governor said.

The militants, believed to be one male and one female, probably had ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) armed group, Ercan Topaca told reporters at the scene of the blast outside the capital. “It looks like there is a high probability of a PKK link,”Ankara Governor Ercan Topaca said in comments broadcast by CNN Turk.

Video footage showed forensic teams in white overalls inspecting the site as police secured the area around a hut in flat countryside on the road to the town of Haymana. 

“A big disaster was prevented. They were probably going to attack Ankara,” Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said in an interview with broadcaster CNN Turk, also pointing the finger at the PKK. “...Turkey is in a critical position. There are clashes in Syria and Iraq and sources of terror there.” 

The PKK leadership is based in the mountains of northern Iraq and the Kurdish YPG militia in Syria has close ties to the group.

A Turkey-backed rebel operation in northern Syria aims to push both militant  group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and YPG forces away from the border.

The state-run Anadolu news agency said President Tayyip Erdogan had convened a meeting with security officials in Istanbul for 1230 GMT, without specifying a reason.

Police seized two pieces of plastic explosives and 200 kg  of ammonium nitrate at the scene of Saturday’s explosion, the governor’s office said in a statement.

Ammonium nitrate is an ingredient in bomb-making.

The office said security forces moved against the militants around 6am (11am Singapore) at a stud farm some 30km from the capital after a tip-off from Diyarbakir, the main city in the Kurdish heartland of southeast Turkey.

An identity card found at the scene, believed to belong to one of the would-be bombers, was of a man from the southeastern province of Bingol. A third individual was also being sought, the governor said.

The PKK has fought a three-decade-long insurgency, focused on the southeast, in which more than 40,000 people have been killed. It is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

A two-year-old ceasefire between the group and the Turkish state collapsed in July last year, triggering renewed clashes and bomb attacks.

Leftist and Islamist militants have also carried out bombings in Turkey in the past, with Islamic State blamed for some recent attacks.

On Thursday a bomb attack near a police station in Istanbul wounded 10 people. The Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK), an offshoot of the PKK, claimed responsibility for that blast on Friday.