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Terror Attacks in Pakistan and Turkey

On the 29th of September, Pakistan and on the 1st of October, Turkey witnessed horrifying acts of terror.


In Pakistan, the sacred observance of the Prophet Mohammed's birthday became a day of mourning as two mosques were targeted in a devastating bomb attack. As of now, the death toll stands at 64 individuals. BBC reported that Balochistan's police chief, Abdul Khaliq Sheikh, confirmed the explosion was a suicide blast. Reuters also reported that senior police officer; Javed Lehri also mentioned that a deputy police superintendent was amongst the deceased. “Nawaz Gishkori tried to stop the suicide bomber, but he blew himself up after getting close to him.”


According to Reuters, senior police official Munir Ahmed said, the first blast occurred in Mastung in the Balochistan province, where the bomber detonated near a police vehicle where people gathered for a procession. These processions are viewed as sacrilegious by hardline sects, in contrast to the moderate beliefs of the mosque belonging to the Barelvi sect. District health official Abdul Rasheed speaking to Reuters, stated that the casualties included 52 fatalities, among them children aged 9 to 11, with an additional 58 individuals injured. According to GeoNews, the death toll has risen to 59. Witness Munir Ahmed Shahwani described the harrowing scene to Reuters, recounting, "The injured were crying for help. I saw at least 25 bodies on the spot, including small children."


Local journalist Saifullah, who tragically lost 10 to 12 of his relatives commented to the BBC: "Bodies were lying on top of one another. The crowd was waiting for a procession to begin. I was standing nearby when the bomb went off." 


A young and injured Haibullah, also speaking to the BBC added, "Everyone fell from its impact. I broke my foot." The overwhelming number of casualties strained local health authorities, initiating calls for blood donations.


Balochistan, Pakistan's largest province, has oft been the target of militant groups such as Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Islamic State. Last month, an explosion injured approximately 10 people, including a prominent Muslim leader. The TTP has denied culpability for Friday's blast, stating that such attacks are against their policies. Local authorities have since declared a state of emergency.


A second attack unfolded in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, marked by two blasts – one at a mosque gate and another at a compound. Although the bomber was neutralised at the gate, five individuals lost their lives in the mosque. GeoNews reported that 30 to 40 people remain trapped under the debris. More notably, in July, over 40 lives were claimed in a suicide bombing in the same province by Islamic State militants.


While no entity has claimed responsibility, the Pakistani Army Chief said the militants responsible were supported by “State Sponsors of Terrorism.” He further asserted, “These terrorists and their facilitators, having no link with religion and ideology, are proxies of the enemies of Pakistan and its people.” Additionally, the Interim Interior Minister Bugti has made a strong allegation against the Indian Intelligence, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), stating, “Those playing the role of a facilitator, whoever is doing this – be it anyone, whatever you may call it – they all are the same for us, all have the same origins, all are being handled from one place, RAW is behind all them.”


On the 1st of October, a Sunday dawned in Turkey with an attack in the nation's capital, Ankara, where two attackers detonated bombs in front of government buildings. The Interior Minister commented, "One of the terrorists blew himself up and the other was neutralised,” adding that two police officers suffered “minor injuries”. The Ankara prosecutor's office promptly initiated an investigation and restricted access to the affected area.


The district in which these government buildings are located also harbours the Parliament, where President Erdogan was scheduled to discuss Sweden's potential entry into NATO during a parliamentary session. A Kurdish militant group claimed responsibility for the attack. ANF News website cited a statement from the  Kurdistan Workers' Party rebels (PKK) which referred to the attackers as the "immortal battalion" carrying out a "sacrificial action" in conjunction with the opening of Parliament.


The PKK has been designated a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States, and the European Union due to the insurgency in southeastern Turkey that began in 1984, resulting in over 40,000 deaths. In 2015 and 2016, the Turkish capital endured several attacks attributed to both PKK and the Islamic State. In October 2015, a horrific attack in front of a central station in Ankara, claimed by the latter, took the lives of 109, while, in March 2016, 37 people died in Ankara when a car laden with explosives detonated at a crowded transport hub.


The most recent bomb attack in Turkey transpired in Istanbul in November 2022, resulting in the loss of 6 lives and leaving 81 others injured. Although no group claimed responsibility, Turkey implicated the outlawed PKK and even detained 46 individuals in connection with the incident.


Turkey has since launched air strikes in Northern Iraq. Turkish Defence Ministry in a statement stated that they destroyed 20 PKK targets including caves, bunkers, shelters and warehouses. They further stated, “Many terrorists were neutralised..” citing self-defence under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter as justification. Iraqi President Abdul-Latif Rashid has dismissed the repeated airstrikes and the presence of Turkish bases in Kurdistan, calling for an agreement with Ankara to remediate the matter. According to the Turkish Defence Ministry, they initiated air strikes in northern Syria, destroying six Kurdish militant targets on Sunday. They also reported that many militants were neutralised, similar to the situation in Iraq. Syrian sources have stated that 20 people have been killed and around 50 people have been injured.


On the homefront, Interior Minister Yerlikaya stated on the 3rd of October that 928 people were arrested for possessing illegal arms, and more than 1000 illegal arms were seized. More recently, the Minister announced that around 2,554 individuals suspected to be PKK members and the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia or the People's Protection Units were detained as part of a national initiative referred to as "Operation Heroes". According to Yerlikaya, authorities have reportedly been searching for 12 fugitives for more than a decade, 91 for 5-10 years, and 2,451 of them for less than five years.

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