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3Novices:Turkey detains 235 people and bombs Kurdish militants after twin blasts

ANKARA // Turkey detained more than 200 people, mostly Kurds, and struck Kurdish militants in Iraq on Monday in response to twin bombings claimed by a Kurdish separatist group.

The toll from Saturday's attack near an Istanbul football stadium and adjacent park rose to 44 on Monday, health minister Recep Akdag said. Most of the dead were riot officers who had been policing a football match at the stadium.

The bombings was claimed by the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons, or Tak, which is seen as a radical offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.

Turkish jets pounded targets in northern Iraq on Monday, with the military saying it had hit "separatist terrorist organisation members", referring to the PKK.

The targets were located in Iraq's Zap region and militant headquarters as well as nearby shelters and gun positions were destroyed, it said.

In total, 235 people were detained in early morning raids across 11 Turkish cities, accused of acting on behalf of the PKK or producing propaganda for the group, the interior ministry said.

The majority of those arrested, according to local media reports, were members of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party, or HDP. Among them were two provincial leaders and an Ankara representative of the HDP.

A party official said 291 of its members had been detained since Sunday night.

Interior minister Suleyman Soylu vowed that those responsible for Saturday's attack would be "wiped from this geography".

"Our people expect us to defeat and eliminate this terrorist organisation, which has attacked our nation for 40 years," he said while paying a condolence visit to a riot police headquarters in Istanbul.

"We want everyone to know that they will not get anywhere by hiding behind political parties, behind politicians, behind those media outlets protecting them."

The arrests are likely to raise fears that Ankara is acting out of revenge against pro-Kurdish politicians who stand accused of links to the PKK - a charge the HDP denies.

Following the arrests, German chancellor Angela Merkel - in comments likely to annoy the Turkish government - urged Ankara to ensure it acted within "the rule of law and to respect the principle of proportionality".

Since the collapse of a ceasefire with the PKK in July last year, Turkey has vowed to wipe out the group and conducted several military operations against it.

There have also been frequent attacks on security forces by PKK militants in the south-east of the country.

Tak, meanwhile, has claimed three major strikes this year in Istanbul and Ankara, killing a total of at least 73 people.

On Monday, Mr Erdogan attended the funerals of some of the police officers killed in Saturday's attack.

Earlier, senior diplomats from several European countries paid their respects outside the Besiktas stadium, laying wreaths that added to the sea of flowers left by mourners.

Along with the 44 dead, 166 people were wounded in the two blasts.

As a tribute, Besiktas municipality chief Murat Hazinedar said Beles Hill where the attacks took place would be renamed "Martyr's Hill".

And the general secretary of the Besiktas football club, Ahmet Urkmezgil, said ticket proceeds from what is likely to be an emotionally-charged match at the stadium on Wednesday would go to the families of terror victims.

In the aftermath of the attack, a defiant president Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised to fight terror "to the end", while on Sunday, Mr Soylu vowed that Ankara would have its revenge.

Mr Soylu's remarks were met with criticism, with Murat Yetkin, the editor-in-chief of Turkey's Hurriyet Daily News, writing an editorial in which he hit out at Ankara's lack of "deep strategy ... other than fiercely reacting".

Jean Marcou, research director at the French Institute for Anatolian Studies, said the government's attempts to calm public opinion after the attack "risks promoting increased repression against the HDP".

Last month 10 HDP lawmakers, including co-leaders Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, were arrested and are currently being held in pretrial detention.

HDP spokesman Ayhan Bilgen said Mr Demirtas had suffered a heart spasm while imprisoned on Saturday.

"Despite Demirtas suffering previous reported heart problems, he is deprived of the necessary health care," Mr Bilgen said.

The HDP claimed that, during Monday's police raids, the words "we came, you weren't here" were sprayed on the wall of its Istanbul headquarters, along with the Turkish flag's crescent and star in black.

Mr Bilgen also shared a picture on Twitter of a room in the headquarters with papers, books and boxes strewn everywhere and a desk on its side.

* Agence France-Presse, Associated Press, Reuters



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