Several injured in Istanbul suicide blast

A suicide bomber blew himself up near police watching over Istanbul's main square today, wounding 22 people, including 10 policemen, officials said.

Istanbul police chief Huseyin Capkin said the bomber tried but failed to get into parked police vans and detonated the bomb just outside the vehicle. Riot police are stationed at Taksim Square in case of demonstrations.

Ten police officers and 12 passers-by were injured in the attack, Istanbul's governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu said.

Capkin said at least two of the injured were in serious condition.

"The incident is under investigation. It's a suicide bombing," Capkin told reporters at the scene, adding that the bomber had died at the scene.

Capkin said bomb squads discovered more devices at the scene and were working to defuse them.

There was no immediate responsibility claim for the attack, which occurred as the city was preparing to hold Republic Day parades that were originally planned for Friday but were delayed due to heavy rain.

Kurdish rebels fighting for autonomy in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast have carried out suicide bombings in the past, as have radical leftist groups and Islamic militants. A unilateral cease-fire announced by the Kurdish rebels is about to end.

Police sealed off all roads leading to the square and forensic teams in blue coveralls were walking in line, combing the area for pieces of debris and other evidence. Some were seen walking around the ledge of a statue at the square centre.

"It was a terrifying, very loud explosion," said Mehmet Toz who was in the square at the time of the blast. "Everyone started to run around, people fell on the ground. There was panic, we couldn't make out what had happened."

Muammer Ulutas, who works at a cafe near the square said a policeman fired four rounds of shots at the suicide bomber after he had blown himself up.

"He fired the shots at the suicide bomber, I heard four gunshots," he said.

The suicide bomber was lying on the ground and appeared to be in his early 20s, Ulutas said.

There have been two previous suicide bomb attacks on police near Taksim, in 1999 and 2001, the state-run Anatolia news agency reported. The first wounded three police officers and 10 other people. The second killed two police officers.

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