Turkey detains Kurdish MPs after deadly blast in southeast
ANKARA - Turkish police on Friday detained almost a dozen MPs from the country's main pro-Kurdish party, including its two co-leaders, as eight people were killed in a deadly car bombing blamed on Kurdish militants.
Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) co-leaders Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag appeared before judges in the city of Diyarbakir who would decide whether to remand them in custody, the state-run Anadolu news agency said.
As the hearings got underway, a blast by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) struck outside a police station nearby in the Baglar district of Diyarbakir, Turkey's main majority Kurdish city.
Eight people were killed, including two police, and over 100 wounded, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim announced, updating an earlier toll, saying that the PKK had again showed its "ugly face".
The arrest of the HDP co-leaders along with nine other MPs, is a major escalation of a crackdown on leading pro-Kurdish politicians in the wake of the failed military coup in July.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said on Twitter she was "extremely worried" over the detentions and would call a meeting of EU ambassadors in Ankara.
Demirtas was detained at his home in Diyarbakir in the early hours while Yuksekdag was detained in Ankara. Yuksekdag was then brought to Diyarbakir where the investigation is centred.
- Top MPs held -
The detention of the 11 MPs appears to be part of a large-scale operation against the HDP, which is the third largest party in the Turkish parliament with 59 seats and the main political representative of the Kurdish minority.
Demirtas and Yuksekdag had been targeted by several separate probes over the last months but this is the first time that either has been detained.
The security operations took place after midnight, with Demirtas tweeting at 0130 local time (2230 GMT) that police had arrived at his home and he was about to be detained.
NTV television said the pair were accused of spreading propaganda for the PKK while Anadolu said Demirtas was accused of provoking violence in deadly protests in October 2014.
The suspects had also failed to respond to demands to give statements to prosecutors, Anadolu said.
Those detained including the prominent lawmaker Sirri Surreya Onder, who in the past has been a pointman for contacts with jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan.
The head of the HDP's faction in the Turkish parliament, Idris Baluken, was also held. Turkish television said one of the detained MPs, Ziya Pir, had been released on bail.
- Rising tensions -
The raids come as Turkey remains under a state of emergency imposed in the wake of the July 15 failed coup, which critics say has gone well beyond targeting the actual coup plotters.
Thirteen staff from the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper, including the editor-in-chief, were detained on Monday, further heightening strains in Turkish society.
Tensions have surged in the Kurdish-dominated southeast of Turkey since a fragile ceasefire declared by the PKK collapsed in 2015.
It has since stepped up its insurgency against the Turkish security forces, staging regular attacks that have claimed hundreds of lives among the military and the police.
After Friday's blast, the local governor's office said in a statement that the cause of the blast "seems to be a car bomb used by members of the separatist terrorist organisation", a reference to the PKK.
The HDP seeks to promote the cause of Turkey's Kurdish minority and defend the rights of Kurds as well as those of women, gays and workers.
The charisma in particular of Demirtas -- dubbed the "Kurdish Obama" by some admirers after the US president -- earned it success at the ballot box.
It also divides all its top jobs between a man and a woman, as with the party chairmanship, which is shared between Demirtas and Yuksekdag.
But the authorities accuse the party of being a front for the PKK and failing to distance itself from terror, claims it has always vehemently denied.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has launched repeated personal attacks on Demirtas, who analysts have seen as the sole politician in Turkey who comes anywhere near to rivalling his charisma.
Demirtas has made it a personal crusade to oppose Erdogan's plan for a presidential system in Turkey, which the HDP says would lead to dictatorship.