Istanbul: A suicide bomber blew himself up on Sunday beside a police vehicle in a major Istanbul square near
tourist hotels and a bus terminal, wounding 32 people,
including 15 policemen.
The attack in Taksim Square, which was followed by
police gunfire and sent hundreds of panicked people racing for
cover, coincided with the possible end of a unilateral
cease-fire by Kurdish rebels, but there was no immediate claim
Turkey, a NATO ally that has deployed troops in a
non-combat role in Afghanistan, is also home to cells of
radical leftists and Islamic militants.
Istanbul police chief Huseyin Capkin said the bomber
tried but failed to get into a parked police van and detonated
the bomb just outside the vehicle, blowing himself to pieces.
Riot police are routinely stationed at Taksim, a popular spot
for street demonstrations that abuts a major pedestrian
walkway whose shops and restaurants are usually packed.
At least 32 people, including 15 police officers, were
injured, at least two of them seriously, Istanbul Gov. Huseyin
Avni Mutlu said.
After the blast, he said, investigators at the scene
found and defused a package of plastic explosives that could
have been detonated with the push of a button.
"It was a terrifying, very loud explosion," said
Mehmet Toz, a coffee stall owner who was in the square at the
time of the blast. "Everyone started to run around, people
fell on the ground. There was panic."
Another witness, Muammer Ulutas, said a policeman
fired four rounds at the body of the suicide bomber after the
explosion. He glimpsed the remains of the assailant, who
appeared to be in his early 20s.
The attack occurred as Istanbul was preparing to hold
Republic Day parades to mark the 1923 founding of Turkey. The
celebrations were originally planned for Friday, but were
delayed due to heavy rain.
Kurdish rebels fighting for autonomy in Turkey`s
mainly Kurdish southeast have a history of suicide bombings in
Turkey and their unilateral cease-fire was scheduled to expire
at the end of October.
The state has held secretive talks with the jailed
leader of the rebel Kurdistan Workers` Party, or PKK, in an
effort to end the conflict, But an ongoing trial of more than
150 Kurds, including a dozen elected mayors, on charges of
rebel links is a sign of the deep reserves of mistrust between
authorities and the ethnic minority.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was
inaugurating a hamlet for villagers whose homes are to be
flooded by a new dam in southeastern Turkey, said the suicide
attack was aimed at "obstructing Turkey`s development."
"We will not show any tolerance toward those who to
want cause turmoil," Erdogan said.
President Abdullah Gul said the assailants would "fail
in their aim to replace friendship, brotherhood and peace with
violence in the face of the people`s will for unity to live as