16 Killed, 150 Hurt by Two Bombs in Istanbul

By C. Onur Ant
Associated Press
Monday, July 28, 2008

ISTANBUL, July 27 -- Two bombs exploded minutes apart in a packed Istanbul square Sunday night, killing 16 and injuring more than 150 in the deadliest attack against civilians in Turkey in almost five years.

The city's governor called it a "terror attack," but officials did not blame any specific group and no one immediately asserted responsibility. CNN-Turk television, citing security sources, said police suspect that Kurdish rebels might have been behind it because intelligence reports had suggested the rebels were planning a bombing campaign in Turkish cities.

Many people were injured in the second blast after rushing to the scene of the first to help victims, witnesses said. The explosions, in the working-class Gungoren neighborhood, took place about 10 minutes apart.

"There is no doubt that this is a terror attack," Istanbul's governor, Muammer Guler, told reporters.

Islamist fighters and members of assorted radical groups are active in Istanbul and have previously carried out bombings in the city. On July 9, gunmen believed to have been inspired by al-Qaeda opened fire on police guarding the U.S. Consulate here, killing three officers. Three attackers also died in a shootout with police.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul strongly condemned Sunday's bombings.

"No goals can be achieved with violence, killing innocent people and terrorism," Gul said in a written statement. "These attacks show how inhumane and miserable the instigators are."

At least 12 bodies could be seen at the scene shortly after the explosions. Broken glass, clothing, store mannequins and other debris were strewn on the ground. Members of bomb squads in white overalls were inspecting the scene.

Many of the injured waited for medical treatment, their faces and bodies covered with blood.

"The first explosion was in a telephone booth," said Huseyin Senturk, who owns a shoe store in the area. "The second explosion was some 40 meters away."

The first explosion was not very strong, Senturk added. "Several people came to see what was going on," he said. "That's when the second explosion occurred, and it injured many onlookers."

Guler said the bombs were placed in trash cans.

Nurettin Kapucu, a doctor at a nearby hospital, said about 25 people were being treated there; three of them were in serious condition.

Kurdish rebels belonging to the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, have been fighting for self-rule in southeastern Turkey since 1984. The violence has killed tens of thousands of people since then.

Turkey has conducted frequent air raids on suspected rebel positions in northern Iraq, including one earlier Sunday. Earlier this year, it launched a week-long ground offensive.

Although most of the fighting is concentrated in rural areas of southeastern Turkey, the rebels occasionally launch bombing campaigns in Turkish cities and tourist resorts.

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