32 injured in Turkish suicide bombing
A SUICIDE bomber blew himself up yesterday beside a police car in a major Istanbul square near tourist hotels and a bus terminal. At least 32 people were injured, including 15 policemen.
The attack in Taksim Square coincided with the possible end of a unilateral ceasefire by Kurdish rebels, but there was no immediate claim of responsibility. Turkey, a NATO ally that has deployed troops 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, detonating the bomb just outside the vehicle and blowing himself to pieces.
Riot police are routinely stationed at Taksim Square, a popular spot for street protests that abuts a major pedestrian walkway whose shops and restaurants are usually packed. After the blast, 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.
Interior Minister Besir Atalay, speaking to Turkish journalists on a visit to China, said "certain suspicions, certain evidence" indicated who was behind the attack, but said the government would not rush to announce its theories.