Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of Turkey’s social democratic main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), escaped an assassination attempt yesterday (25 August) in the northeastern province of Artvin, near the border with Georgia.
One Turkish soldier was killed when Kurdish militants opened fire on the convoy of Kılıçdaroğlu but the opposition chief was unharmed.
Kılıçdaroğlu’s convoy was driving through the northeastern region of Artvin when it came under attack from nearby woods.
“Terrorists fired on members of the gendarmerie who were protecting the convoy,” Interior Minister Efkan Ala said in televised comments.
Ala said three soldiers were wounded. But the state-run Anadolu news agency later said one had died of his wounds.
The minister blamed the ambush on members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and said an operation had been launched against the rebels in the area.
Kılıçdaroğlu said he was safe and well after the incident. “There is no problem, we are fine, don’t worry,” he told CNN-Turk television by telephone.
He later sent an emotional tweet: “We only have one God-given life, so let it be sacrificed for this homeland, this nation, this people!”
‘Won’t damage unity’
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım called Kılıçdaroğlu to offer their best wishes, with television pictures showing the shaken opposition chief taking the call from the president on his mobile phone.
Since the failed July 15 putsch, there has been greater harmony between the opposition and the government, with Kılıçdaroğlu meeting Erdoğan and Yıldırım several times.
Kılıçdaroğlu and other opposition leaders strongly and rapidly condemned the coup bid, winning plaudits from the government for their conduct.
Yıldırım said the attack would not damage Turkey’s unity, vowing that the “terrorists” would be punished.
“These terrorists will not damage the unity within Turkey… or achieve their ambitions. They will face the punishment they deserve.”
Adding to the show of unity, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahceli offered his best wishes on Twitter.
“To Mr Kılıçdaroğlu and the Republican People’s Party community, I give my best wishes. We strongly condemn this terror attack.”
The co-chairs of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) — Figen Yuksekdag and Selahattin Demirtas — also telephoned Kılıçdaroğlu to wish him well and condemn the attack, the party said.
PKK militants have on occasion staged attacks in the northeastern area close to the Black Sea although it is outside their traditional region of operation.
Over 40,000 people have been killed since the PKK first took up arms in 1984 with the aim of carving out an independent state for Turkey’s Kurdish minority, although now it focuses more on rights and demands for greater autonomy.
It is proscribed as a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.
The HDP has so far been frozen out of the post-coup national unity talks, with the government accusing it of failing to break links with the PKK.