Istanbul bombing 'mastermind' killed in operation in northern Syria, says Turkey

Ankara blamed the November 13 attack on Kurdish insurgents

Flowers at the site of the explosion on Istiklal street in Istanbul. AFP
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Turkish forces have killed the alleged mastermind behind last year's deadly bombing in Istanbul during an operation in northern Syria, state media reported on Friday.

The man, identified as Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) member Halil Menci, was “neutralised” in a "pinpoint operation" by Turkish intelligence agents, the Anadolu Agency said.

HaberTurk television said the operation took place on Wednesday in the town of Qamishli.

The PKK has waged an insurgency against Turkey for decades and is considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the EU and the US.

Six people were killed and dozens wounded when an explosion rocked bustling Istiklal Avenue, close to Taksim Square in central Istanbul, on November 13.

Turkey accused the PKK of carrying out the bombing and launched operations in Syria against Kurdish forces.

The PKK has denied carrying out the attack. No group has yet claimed responsibility.

At least 17 suspects have been detained pending trial in connection with the attack, including a Syrian woman who is accused of leaving the TNT-laden bomb on Istiklal Avenue.

Officials said at the time that the attack’s planner had fled Turkey for Syria.

Istiklal Avenue was hit during a campaign of attacks in 2015-2017 that involved Istanbul and other cities, including Ankara.

The bombings were mostly blamed on ISIS and outlawed Kurdish militants, killing nearly 500 people and wounded more than 2,000.

The PKK has fought an armed insurgency in Turkey since 1984. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people since then.

Turkey has launched three major incursions inside Syria targeting Syria’s main Kurdish militia since 2016 and controls a swath of Syrian territory along their joint border.

Updated: February 24, 2023, 10:56 AM