TAK, dissident Kurdish rebels behind Ankara car bomb

Ankara (AFP) - The Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK), who claimed responsibility for Sunday's suicide car bomb attack that killed 35 people in Ankara, is a widely regarded as a dissident offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

The TAK on Thursday named the female bomber as one of its members, Seher Cagla Demir, saying she detonated explosives at a busy bus stop in the centre of the capital.

The group said the bombing was a response to security operations by Turkish forces in the Kurdish-dominated southeast.

More than 120 people were injured in the blast, which ripped through a busy transport hub close to two ministries, the prime minister's office, parliament and several foreign embassies.

The TAK rapidly came under suspicion for an attack that bore the hallmarks of another suicide bombing in Ankara on February 17 which killed 29 people.

The group formed a decade ago following a split in the ranks of a Kurdish separatist rebel movement founded by Abdullah Ocalan, now serving a life jail term.

Whereas PKK attacks essentially target security forces and symbols of the Turkish state the TAK have hit civilians with attacks on major cities and tourist sites.

They hit the international headlines in 2005 with a bomb attack on a minibus in the Aegean spa resort of Kusudasi which left five people dead including two British tourists.

A year later the group killed four people in an attack at Manavgat, whose waterfall is a major tourist attraction near the Mediterranean resort town of Antalya.

A further attack followed a year later which claimed the lives of 10 British tourists at Marmaris and two further attacks followed in Ankara in 2007 and again in 2011.

The group took a back seat as peace talks got under way between the government and the PKK in 2012 but then reemerged with a December 23, 2015 mortar assault on Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen airport which left one official dead.

The exact nature of the TAK's relationship with the PKK today is the subject of some speculation.

The PKK denies a link with a group which Turkish authorities and many analysts consider to be a conveniently deniable front following attacks which claim civilian lives, a means of shifting blame and thereby sparing the PKK itself popular opprobrium.

The PKK distanced itself from a 2011 "reprehensible" attack in Ankara which killed three, saying it "harmed the legitimate demands of the Kurdish people".

Many analysts nonetheless see the link as unbroken.

"The TAK self identifies as a dissident group (but) we think they are more probably a PKK front," says Otso Iho, an analyst at IHS Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Centre.

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