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18 held over car bomb attack near Turkish courthouse

Turkish police have detained 18 people in connection with an attack near a courthouse in the western city of Izmir which killed a policeman and a court employee.

Justice minister Bekir Bozdag said authorities had no doubt that the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, "gave the orders" for the attack.

The two assailants were killed in a shootout with police in Thursday's incident in Izmir, Turkey's third-largest city, after they detonated an explosives-laden vehicle at a roadblock.

The attackers were armed with automatic rifles, rocket launchers and hand grenades, officials said.

Mr Bozdag spoke before thousands of people attended a memorial service for the killed police officer, Fethi Sekin, who authorities say thwarted a larger attack.

The minister said 18 suspects were rounded up, but did not provide details.

The attack was the latest in a string of assaults carried out by Kurdish militants or the Islamic State group that have hit Turkey as it grapples with the aftermath of a failed coup in July, blamed on a movement led by US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.

It came days after 39 people were killed in a nightclub in Istanbul during new year celebrations. IS claimed that attack which it said was a reprisal for Turkey's military operations in Syria.

Addressing crowds in the city of Sanliurfa, near the border with Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated claims that unidentified forces wanting to halt Turkey's rise were behind such attacks.

"Unfortunately, the hordes of bloodthirsty murderers released on Turkey are continuing their attacks in open co-operation," Mr Erdogan said. "They are feeding them, arming them, strengthening and leading them to unleash them on Turkey."

He also accused Turkey's allies of aiming to keep his nation out of military operations to drive IS from Iraq and Syria.

The Turkish leader vowed to press ahead with a military offensive in northern Syria until two key towns have been cleared of IS militants and Syrian Kurdish militia, which Turkey accuses of collaborating with the PKK.

"The arrow has left the bow. We will not stop until al Bab, Manbij and other regions have been purged of terrorist organisations," Mr Erdogan said.

AP

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