Twin explosions — one a larger car bomb and the other a smaller suicide attack — rocked the aftermath of a heavily attended soccer game in Istanbul, Turkey, late Saturday night, together killing 38 people and injuring scores more. The targets of the devastating blast were law enforcement officials, a trademark of a terrorist organization that's considered an offshoot of Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a longstanding rebel group in the country. Not long after the attacks, the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons announced online that it was responsible for the Turkey bombings, insisting that the Turkish people themselves were not the intended targets; Rather, it claimed the militants were striving to retaliate against the government for ongoing violence and for the imprisonment of its leader.
As 2016 draws to close, Turkey can trace the chronology of the year through a macabre series of bloody touchstones, deadly ambushes carried out by the terrorist groups including ISIS and the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons, or TAK. The TAK, for example, trumpeted an attack on military vehicles that left 29 members of the security forces dead in the capitol of Ankara as a "suicide revenge mission" and claimed culpability for a car bomb attack that killed 37 there less than a month later.
The group — an offshoot of the PKK, which has "carried out a violent, three-decade insurgency," in Turkey according to Reuters — has announced that two of its members were "heroically martyred" in the latest attack. Turkish authorities have so far arrested 13 people in connection with the massacre, which also injured 155 people.
According to The Daily Beast, one of the key tactical difference between the PKK and ISIS is this: The PKK seeks to kill security forces (in this case, the TAK managed to end the lives of 30 police officers), while ISIS has virtually zero regard for human life, aiming with its attacks to murder as many people as possible, no matter who they are or what they believe.
Perhaps that's why suspicion was almost immediately cast on the PKK in the light of the attacks, the smaller of which occurred in a park close to the Vodafone Arena, where the killers targeted a van full of police officers. With the revelation that the PKK was the mastermind behind this one, those suspicions were proven more or less correct.
A harrowing video that inadvertently captures the blasts encapsulates some of the terror and confusion that these attacks, and others like them over the course of this year, caused:
Now, officials in the nation have declared a national day of mourning as the country once again copes with the fallout of the fresh horrors. And the funerals for the police officers have already begun. At an event to remember five of them at police headquarters in Istanbul Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu pledged that their deaths would not be in vain. "Sooner or later we will have our vengeance," he told those assembled there, according to Reuters. "This blood will not be left on the ground, no matter what the price, what the cost."
According to The Washington Post, the dramatic uptick in violence in Turkey this year can be attributed in part to the crumbling of a potential peace agreement between the PKK and the Turkish government last year. The twin bombings immediately followed the submission of a bill that would arm Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with even more powers, such as to run for additional terms in office.
These attacks were the deadliest in weeks.