Smoke ascends after Kurdish militants detonated a car bomb outside a military station in Semdinli near the border with Iraq. Photograph: (AFP)
The vehicle was loaded with five tonnes of explosives, Kurdish militants are being blamed for the attack
Eighteen people were killed on Sunday when a van loaded with five tonnes of explosives blew up in Turkey’s restive southeast, the prime minister said, in an attack blamed on Kurdish militants, AFP reported.
10 soldiers and eight civilians were killed in the bombing that is one of the deadliest attacks on security forces in Turkey since the failed coup attempt of July 15.
"The attack was perpetrated by a suicide bomber who detonated a van (packed) with five tonnes of explosives," Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told a news conference in Istanbul, AFP reported.
A security post in the Hakkari province was targeted in the attack when security personnel were searching vehicles in Semdinli district, the official news agency Anadolu said.
The Hakkari governor said in a statement that a vehicle refused to stop as it approached the checkpoint, resulting in soldiers responding with gunfire.
Militants then started shooting, the governor’s office said, quoted by Dogan news agency.
27 people were injured in the blast caused by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Erdogan said in a written statement.
Soon after the attack, which Anadolu said left a seven-metre deep hole in the road, the military began a large-scale air operation which the governor’s office said was launched to "neutralise" PKK militants.
Commando units on the ground were continuing to search for PKK fighters.
The White House also condemned "in the strongest terms the deadly terrorist attack today against a military checkpoint in southeastern Turkey that left many dead, including civilians, and scores more wounded.", AFP reported.
"We remain steadfast in our support for our NATO ally, Turkey, and reaffirm our commitment to continue working together to defeat all forms of terrorism," Ned Price, the White House National Security Council spokesman said, AFP reported.
The bombing comes only a day after two suspects believed to have been preparing a car bomb attack blew themselves up on the outskirts of Ankara when police ordered them to surrender.
Turkish officials told AFP they believed the pair were linked to the PKK.
(WION with inputs from AFP)