Viransehir bombing: Will Turkey-PKK clashes start early in 2017?

The lodgings of judges in prosecutors in Viransehir targeted in yesterday's attack.

Yesterday a car-bomb ripped through a complex that houses judges and prosecutors in the Viransehir province of the south-eastern city of Sanliurfa, killing two people and injuring tens.

Images serviced by news agencies this morning showed the extent of the destruction caused by an explosion believed to have been remotely detonated by a “PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] terrorist,” according to the governor of the city, Gungor Azim Tuna.

The attack came on the same day as Turkish security forces had besieged nine villages in Kurdish-majority south-eastern Mardin’s Omerli, Nusaybin and Artuklu districts where two people were killed in Korukoy village.

The Governorate of the city of Mardin today announced that the two people killed were “high ranking PKK terrorists”. Photos of two bodies, one of them charred to death and the other riddled with bullets were being shared on social media sites.

Turkish cities and towns such as Ankara, Istanbul and another province of Sanliurfa, Suruc have all been hit in a series of attacks in the past years. In 2016, 298 people were killed and thousands of people injured in 17 different explosions across Turkey. However, this attack in Sanliurfa has broken a relative serenity in the last few months in devastating fashion.

Traditionally the winter period is a time when the PKK limits its activities due to severe weather conditions in the mountains the organisation largely operates in and goes underground.

Turkey’s interior minister Suleyman Soylu had said in December last year that the PKK “would be debilitated of its operational capacities by March,” with the Turkish air forces pounding the Qandil mountain range, the PKK’s stronghold in the Kurdistan region in northern Iraq, throughout the winter months.

Murat Karayilan, the top commander of the PKK’s military wing the People’s Defence Force (HPG), said last week, “we are going to show the Turkish state if they have ‘finished’ us or not,” signalling to a turbulent time ahead.

With a visible change in the PKK’s tactics from rural guerrilla warfare to urban attacks against the police, the army and now state institutions such as the judiciary, it seems as though no one is waiting for the snow to melt on the mountain-tops this year.

Turkey has officially entered the run-up to a referendum on constitutional reform set for 16 April. A state of emergency which has been in place since last year’s attempted coup has already thrown into question the security and feasibility of the referendum. Bombs going off in Turkey’s urban centres are bound to ferment further question marks, possibly even endangering the referendum itself.