June 8, 2015 / 10:44 PM / 5 years ago

Turkish opposition leader says Islamic State behind bombings of Kurds

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A string of bombings targeting Turkey’s pro-Kurdish party during its campaign to enter parliament has been linked with Islamic State in Syria, the party’s chairman said on Monday.

Selahattin Demirtas, co-chairman of the Pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), addresses his supporters during a gathering to celebrate the party's victory during the parliamentary election, in Istanbul, Turkey, June 8, 2015. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

Three people were killed in two blasts on Friday in the mainly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir in southeast Turkey, minutes before Selahattin Demirtas, head of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), addressed a political rally.

The death toll in the bombings rose from two to three on Monday after a 17-year-old boy died of his injuries, local media said, citing hospital officials. At least 200 people were wounded in the attack.

The HDP on Sunday became the first-ever political party with Kurdish roots to enter Turkey’s parliament as a party after it easily cleared the 10 percent threshold required.

The party took 80 seats in the new parliament, helping to deprive the ruling AK Party of a majority to form a single-party government.

Demirtas said the attack, as well as two other bombings of HDP offices in May in which no one was killed, were connected to IS, an armed militant group that espouses a hardline interpretation of Islam and controls swaths of war-torn Iraq and Syria, both of which share borders with Turkey.

“The assaults in Adana and Mersin - the person who placed the bombs, had apparently been to Syria recently and spent time with IS. Again the other person who was involved here in the third bombing apparently had connections to IS,” Demirtas said in an interview with CNN. His comments were dubbed into English.

He did not say how he had obtained this information or what evidence there was linking the bombings to IS, but he blamed state security for failing to prevent the attacks.

“We believe that for them to be able to carry out these attacks, it was possible either because the government’s intelligence work was poor or they felt the courage to be able do this. At the end of the day, this is the government’s responsibility to prevent such attacks,” he said.

Backed by U.S.-led coalition air strikes, semi-autonomous Kurds in northern Syria have been battling the Islamic State since last year. In January, Kurds cleansed the Syrian city of Kobani of Islamic State after a four-month siege.

Demirtas has repeatedly accused the Turkish government, an outspoken critic of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, of supporting IS in Kobani and told CNN the next government will overhaul Ankara’s policy on Syria. Turkey has denied links with IS.

“Coalition governments will not be able to continue to support groups like IS and other extremist groups in Syria,” he said.

Reporting by Ayla Jean Yackley, editing by G Crosse

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