ANKARA (Reuters) -Turkish authorities have captured 2,554 fugitives as part of a nationwide counter-terrorism operation launched after Kurdish militants detonated a bomb near government buildings in Ankara a week ago, Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said on Sunday.
Turkey said this week all targets belonging to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militia and the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia were “legitimate targets” for its forces, after the PKK claimed responsibility for last Sunday’s bombing, which wounded two police officers and killed the two attackers.
Ankara said the attackers came from Syria. The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), spearheaded by the YPG militia which Turkey regards as a terrorist organisation affiliated with the PKK, denied this.
The United States and European Union deem the PKK a terrorist organisation, but not the YPG.
Since the attack, Ankara has launched a barrage of air strikes and ground-based attacks against militant targets in the north of Syria and Iraq, while ramping up security operations at home.
Yerlikaya said on social media platform X the fugitives were caught as part of a nationwide initiative dubbed “Operation Heroes”.
“We will not allow fugitive criminals to roam our streets. We are determined to catch and hand them over to justice,” he said, without saying which groups those captured belonged to.
Authorities had been searching for 12 of the fugitives for over 10 years, Yerlikaya said, while 91 have been sought for 5-10 years, and 2,451 for fewer than five years.
Later on Sunday, Turkey’s defence ministry said the military had carried out fresh air strikes against Kurdish militants in northern Syria and destroyed six targets, including shelters and storage facilities where militants were believed to be, and an oil facility used by the militants.
In a statement, the ministry also said many militants had been “neutralised” in the strikes, carried out at 1900 GMT, but did not say which regions of Syria they had struck.
Ankara typically uses the term “neutralised” to mean killed.
Turkey, which has mounted several incursions into northern Syria against the YPG, has said a ground operation into Syria is an option it could consider.
The YPG is also at the heart of the SDF forces in the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State militants. U.S. support for them has long caused tension with Ankara.
(Reporting by Tuvan GumrukcuEditing by Bernadette Baum and Lisa Shumaker)