Turkey has suffered a deadly bomb blast and an unprecedented threat by a Syrian group, as it faces an escalation of its battle with Kurdish militants.
A truck bomb at a police headquarters in Cizre, in the Kurdish heartlands of the southeast, killed 11 people and wounded over 70 yesterday morning, in the latest indication that the Syrian conflict threatens to increase tensions within Turkey itself.
The blast came just hours after a Syrian Kurdish group called for retaliation against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for sending Turkish forces into the country this week.
In an ostensibly anti-jihadi operation, Turkish troops, supplemented by Turkish-trained Syrian rebels, thwarted Kurdish plans for territorial expansion on Wednesday by taking over Jarablus, a Syrian town Isis had held since July 2013.
"Death to Erdogan and his mercenaries," said a group known as the council of Aleppo, in a statement shared by the political arm of the Syrian Kurdish militias.
"We call on all the national revolutionary forces in Syria and to its north to face this invasion and to intervene immediately. Jarablus and north Syria will be a graveyard for the murderous invader Erdogan and his mercenaries."
Control of Jarablus was a central goal of Kurdish militias in Syria, who had hoped to join two separate cantons they control in the north of the country and create a self-administered state along Turkey’s southern border.
The Syrian Kurdish militia is closely linked to the PKK, an outlawed group that has waged a conflict for more than 30 years to win self-rule for Turkey’s Kurdish minority, a battle in which tens of thousands of people have died.
Mujtaba Rahman, an analyst at the Eurasia Group, a consultancy, warned Ankara's decision to intervene militarily in Syria was likely to exacerbate its long-running tensions with the PKK and could invite further attacks from Isis.
“This aggressive move will raise the stakes for Turkey’s involvement in Syria and introduces the risk of a further intervention to support rebel forces if they come under stress in the future,” he said.
“In the meantime, Turkey’s exposure to Syria will increase domestic security risks and is likely to provoke retaliatory attacks by Isis and the PKK in Turkey.”
The Turkey-backed rebels now intend to expand their corridor of influence, after the US pressured the Syrian Kurdish fighters to disperse from Manbij, a town they had helped liberate from Isis
“The next step is Al Bab,” said Mohammad al Shamali, a vice-president with the Turkmen Council, a group of fighters backed by Turkey, and rivals of both Isis and the Kurdish militias. He was referring to an Isis controlled city about 20km from Aleppo.