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Large blast reported in Eastern Turkey
02:13 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Two explosions targeted police stations, a third struck a military vehicle

Turkish officials have blamed the Kurdish militant group PKK for the attacks

Istanbul CNN  — 

Three bomb attacks targeting Turkish security forces in the east of the country have killed 11 people and wounded nearly 300 others, authorities said Thursday.

Turkish officials blame the banned militant group Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, for the attacks.

The latest incident occurred Thursday in the eastern province of Bitlis, according to a senior Turkish official, who could not be named in line with government protocol.

First, a village guard was killed and a soldier was wounded in clashes between security forces and PKK militants in the village of Nazar, state news agency Anadolu reported.

When the military vehicle was returning from the engagement, it was struck by a roadside bomb in the nearby village of Gayda, killing five soldiers and wounding four.

A Turkish soldier stands guard at the scene of the blast in Elazig.

Elazig blast

Earlier Thursday, a huge car bomb struck police headquarters in the city of Elazig at about 8 .a.m local time (1 a.m. ET), killing three officers, Anadolu reported.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said in the wake of the blast that 217 people had been injured, with 145 of them still in the hospital.

Eighty-five of those in the hospital were police officers and 60 were civilians.

Yildirim blamed the PKK for the attack. “This is the separatist PKK terrorist organization and its extensions. There is no doubt about it,” he told reporters.

Turkish rescue workers at the scene of a car bomb attack on a police station in the eastern city of Elazig Thursday.

Van bombing

Wednesday, a car bomb exploded outside a police station in the eastern city of Van shortly after 11 p.m. (4 p.m. ET), killing three people, including one officer, according to a senior Turkish official.

At least 73 others were injured, including 20 officers, the official said.

Van Governor Ibrahim Tasyapan said the PKK was behind the attack, and that police had apprehended a suspect, Anadolu reported.

It was the fifth explosion in the past two weeks to target police facilities in southeastern and eastern Turkey.

Hostilities resumed

Clashes between the PKK and Turkish forces have been ongoing since a peace process crumbled in 2015, bringing an end to a two-year ceasefire.

Since then, Anadolu reports, hundreds of Turkish security forces and about 5,000 PKK members have been killed in the conflict.

Understanding Turkey’s catalog of enemies

Considered a terror group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, the PKK took up arms against Turkey in 1984 seeking an independent state for the country’s Kurdish minority.

Tens of thousands have been killed in the conflict.

Turkey has weathered a string of terror attacks over the past year as it faces the twin threats of ISIS and Kurdish militants.

The United States condemned the attacks.

“We are in close touch with Turkish authorities and will continue to work together with Turkey to confront the threats we face from terrorist groups,” National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said.

“Vice President Biden will travel to Ankara (as planned) next week to reaffirm our commitment to Turkey’s security and democracy.”

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Turkey’s woes

The latest wave of attacks come as the government carries out a sweeping crackdown on those among the various branches of the military and civil service it says is responsible for a failed coup attempt last month.

The government says US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, head of a large religious movement, was behind the attempted coup, a charge he denies.

Yildirim said in his comments in Elazig that FETO – the government’s name for Gulen’s network – had “handed over its mission” to the PKK.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan repeated the claim, saying FETO was behind the bombings in terms of “intelligence-sharing and encouragement,” Anadolu reported.

“There is no difference between the PKK, Daesh (ISIS), and FETO. They all serve the same purpose,” Erdogan said, according to the agency.

What Turkey’s crackdown looks like one month on

Turkey has vowed to continue its campaign against the PKK in the eastern part of the country, despite its ongoing purge of the military.

About 23,000 people are being held amid the crackdown, and more than 81,000 people have been dismissed or suspended from their jobs, including 1,700 soldiers and nearly 9,000 police.

Turkey to release 38,000 prisoners jailed before coup attempt

CNN’s Isil Sariyuce reported from Istanbul, Tim Hume reported and wrote from London, and Ben Westcott wrote from Hong Kong. CNN’s Allison Malloy contributed to this report.