A car bomb in the largest majority-Kurdish city in Turkey has killed at least eight people and wounded scores more, shortly after a dozen pro-Kurdish Turkish legislators were detained by the government for questioning.
Diyarbakir is the largest city in southeast Turkey, a majority-Kurdish region. The car bomb hit Friday morning near a building used by riot police, killing both police and civilians, The Associated Press says.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said one of the assailants was “caught dead,” though he did not elaborate, according to the AP.
“The Diyarbakir governor’s office said the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, had claimed the attack,” the wire service says.
The explosion came just hours after 12 pro-Kurdish legislators in Turkey were detained by authorities. The lawmakers in custody include the two leaders of the pro-Kurdish opposition party HDP, the BBC reports.
The legislators are accused of failing to cooperate with counter-terrorism efforts and spreading propaganda for the PKK.
“Turkish politicians normally have immunity from prosecution but this was removed from the HDP and some other MPs in May,” the BBC reports. “Last month, the joint mayors of Diyarbakir … were also arrested as part of a terrorism investigation.”
One member of the Turkish parliament who is currently traveling abroad told the BBC the overnight crackdown “is nothing to do with procedural law, criminal law, any law whatsoever or the constitution.”
Another HDP legislator told the AP the detentions “officially put an end to the functioning of Parliament” by removing the opposition.
European diplomats have expressed alarm over Friday’s developments, with a spokeswoman for the German foreign ministry calling the arrests a “drastic intensification of the situation” in Turkey, the AP reports.
Turkey remains under a state of emergency, declared after the failed coup attempt this summer. It grants broad powers to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Meanwhile, watchdog groups in Turkey report a crackdown on Internet freedoms, the AP writes:
“The TurkeyBlocks monitoring network is reporting that access to various social media and messaging apps have been restricted as of 1:20 a.m. Friday, coinciding with the detentions of 12 pro-Kurdish politicians.
“Users nationwide have been complaining about restricted access to various social media and messaging, including Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp and Skype.
“TurkeyBlocks confirmed the restricted access, saying its monitoring probes have identified ‘throttling at the ISP level as the source of the slowdowns, with the majority of Internet users affected at the time of measurement.’
“Rights activists say restricting access to the Internet is aimed at preventing calls for demonstrations.”
In Diyarbakir, site of Friday’s explosion, Internet access had been restricted last week, the AP reports — after the arrest of the city’s co-mayors.