ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday blamed followers of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen for playing a role in a series of bomb attacks in eastern Turkey blamed on the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
In a speech broadcast live on television, Erdogan said Turkey was facing joint attacks by various terrorist organizations who act together. He said that Gulen’s followers were complicit in attacks by the Kurdish militants that killed seven members of security forces and wounded 224 people in the southeast on Thursday.
Ankara blames Gulen for the failed July 15 putsch when a group of rogue soldiers attempted to overthrow the government, commandeering tanks, planes and helicopters. Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States since 1999, has denied the charges.
Ideologically, Gulen, an Islamic cleric, has little in common with the leftist, secular PKK, which seeks autonomy for Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast. More than 40,000 people, mainly Kurds, have died since it took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984. It is considered a terrorist organization by the United States, Ankara and Europe.
Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Patrick Markey; Writing by David Dolan