Monday 22 January 2018

Dozens killed in suicide bombing in Turkish capital

Medics attend to an injured person at the explosion site in Ankara (AP)
Medics attend to an injured person at the explosion site in Ankara (AP)

At least 34 people have been killed and 125 others have been injured after a suicide car bomb was detonated near bus stops in the heart of the Turkish capital.

The blast, which Turkish police believe was carried out by Kurdish militants, occurred on Ankara's main boulevard, close to the main square and a public park.

Turkish health minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu said 19 of the wounded are in serious condition.

He said that 30 people died at the scene, while the other four perished at hospitals. Two of the dead were believed to be the assailants, he added.

Interior minister Efkan Ala said the attack, which came as Turkey prepared to launch large-scale military operations against Kurdish militants in two towns, would not deter the country from its fight against terrorism.

He confirmed the blast was the result of a car bomb, which targeted civilians on Ataturk Bulvari close to Kizilay square.

The private NTV news channel said several vehicles caught fire following the blast, which also shattered the windows of shops that line the boulevard and the square.

Dogan Asik, 28, said he was on a board a packed bus when the explosion occurred.

"There were about 40 people," said Mr Asik, who sustained injuries on his face and arm. "It (the bus) slowed down. A car went by us, and 'boom' it exploded."

Police sealed off the area and pushed onlookers and journalists back, warning there could be a second bomb. Forensic teams are currently examining the scene.

No-one has claimed responsibility for the attack, although Kurdish militants and the Islamic State group (IS) have carried out bombings in the city recently. A far-left militant group is also active in Turkey.

The bombing is the third in the city in five months and comes as Turkey is faced with an array of issues, including renewed fighting with the Kurdish rebels, threats from IS and the Syrian refugee crisis.

The incident occurred just three weeks after a suicide car bombing in the capital targeted buses carrying military personnel, killing 29 people.

A Kurdish militant group which is an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdish rebel group, the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, claimed responsibility for the February 17 attack.

The government, however, said that attack was carried out by a Syrian Kurdish militia group in concert with the PKK, which has waged a 30-year insurgency.

Sunday's attack also came two days after the US Embassy issued a security warning about a potential plot to attack Turkish government buildings and housing in one Ankara neighbourhood and asked its citizens to avoid those areas.

As with the previous bombings, Turkish authorities quickly imposed a ban Sunday preventing media organisations from broadcasting or publishing graphic images of the blast or from the scene.

The country's pro-Kurdish party, the Peoples' Democratic Party, condemned the attack the attack and said it shares "the huge pain felt along with our citizens".

The statement was significant because the party is frequently accused of being the political arm of the PKK - an accusation it denies - and of not speaking out against PKK violence.

Hundreds of people have been killed in Turkey in renewed fighting following the collapse of the peace process between the government and the PKK in July.

Authorities on Sunday had declared curfews in two towns in the mainly Kurdish south-east region in anticipation of large-scale military operations against PKK-linked militants.

Turkey also has been struck by several bombings in the last year that were blamed on IS as the government joined efforts led by the US to fight the extremist group in Syria.

The deadliest came in October when a peace rally outside Ankara's main train station killed 102 people.

Press Association

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