British death toll rises to 10 in Turkish consulate bombing

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The Independent Online

Ten staff at the British consulate in Istanbul died in Thursday's bomb blast, the Foreign Office announced yesterday. Three of them were British, including the consul himself, Roger Short, and his secretary, Lisa Hallworth. The other seven were Turkish nationals. They included cleaners, porters and security guards.

The Foreign Office said that although formal identification was still to take place, it must presume the 10 employees were among the dead. Two Turkish policemen who were guarding the building are also missing and presumed killed.

The third Briton killed was Nanette Kurma, 41, from Ayrshire, who moved here eight years ago after marrying a Turkish national. She worked as a consular assistant.

Speaking at the funeral of two policemen killed in the explosion, the Turkish Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan, indicated that the total number of people killed in the two blasts was 30, three more than reported earlier.

With the deaths so raw in the memory, there was no pretending that yesterday was just a normal day. But at the North Shields pub, a British gathering point in the city, by the time yesterday's Rugby World Cup final was under way - shown on three big screens - there was something likea party mood.

Under one of the screens stood a large bouquet of white dahlias with the simple message: "In memory of lost friends." About 40 rugby fans, evenly split between English and Australians, watched the match - a contrast with last Saturday's match, for which the place had been packed.

Many more were planning to come, said Teresa Ulett from Manchester, "but this morning they began dropping off one by one. Some cancelled because the Australian consulate warned nationals not to gather in public places ...I decided I would come - but I've been text-messaging my children every half hour, to tell them I'm all right."

In a city that expatriates uniformly describe as very safe, British residents are suddenly on their guard.

Sharon (who withheld her surname), a Briton who teaches at an international school, said that immediately after the explosions the order was given to remove all signs from the school premises and school buses. She had been at a party at the murdered British consul's house two days before he died. "We were among the last to leave," she said, "finishing the drinks off, talking with Roger [Short, the consul] about all the things coming up to look forward to."

The consul had been a popular figure in the British community.

"Istanbul has been one of the safest places to be until now," said Ms Ulett. "I always let my 17-year-old daughter go out at night, I never worried about her. This has shaken us, it was a total surprise. Today I'm nervous."

Thousands of Turks took to the streets of Istanbul and other major cities yesterday, brandishing national flags - also seen hanging from many windows - and marching in quiet, almost solemn processions to protest against the bombings.

Despite prompt claims by al-Qa'ida and a related, Turkey-based group that they were behind the bombs, protesters were unconvinced. "The groups behind this don't want to see a powerful Turkey in the Middle East," a metal union official, Mehmet Soyupek, told the Reuters news agency. "Things were going well for Turkey and they want to put a stop to that."

Some claimed to see the hand of the Western powers behind the atrocities. "I believe the attacks bear the fingerprints of the CIA, Mossad and MIT [Turkish intelligence]," said Mustafa Solak, a student.

"We are against all terrorism all over the world," said Muge Gulses, a retired banker. "The USA supports terrorism, England, the USA and developed countries sell guns to underdeveloped countries ... They only think about money."

The protests reflect a palpable upsurge of tension here, and a fear that worse is to come. "We must not be intimidated," said Mr Erdogan at the funeral of a well-known actor killed in the blast at the offices of HSBC, the British-based bank, which occurred a few minutes before the one that hit the consulate. "Bombs are not strong enough to stop us living freely." Eighteen people were detained after police raids on Friday, and the man who bought the two trucks used in the suicide bombings has reportedly been identified.

By gathering at a British pub in the centre of the city, protected by a single unarmed man on the pavement outside, Istanbul's British residents yesterday showed their desire to continue "living freely". But life has changed. "I was planning to stay here indefinitely," said a British engineer, resident for eight years. "But if more bombs go off, I'll have to think about it."