Kurds blamed for deadly Istanbul blast

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The Independent Online
FEARS ARE growing that Turkey is about to be engulfed in violence again, after Kurdish rebels were held responsible yesterday for yet another callous killing. A man aged 39 died of his injuries late on Sunday night after a bomb hidden in a dustbin went off in a crowded Istanbul park. more than 20 people were taken to hospital with shrapnel wounds.

Turkish officials blamed the attack on the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which last week threatened to step up its 14-year campaign of terror after its leader, Abdullah Ocalan, was sentenced to death by a Turkish court.

"This is an act of the PKK," said Istanbul's governor, Erol Cakir, yesterday. "Everyone must be careful, but there is no need to panic."

Police were unable to confirm reports that a second bomb was defused in a central Istanbul bar. The bombing follows attacks in south-east Turkey blamed on the PKK. Four people were shot dead when gunmen burst into a coffee house last week. In a separate incident, a policeman was killed on duty. Sunday's bombing will stir memories of a series of attacks that rocked Istanbul after Ocalan was captured in February. In the worst, 13 people died when a shopping centre was firebombed. The violence ended after a personal plea from Ocalan.

The latest attack came only hours after a Turkish newspaper reported that the rebel leader had made a similar plea to the PKK not to react with violece to his sentencing. If that report was accurate, the bombing may indicate he is losing influence over the guerrillas.

The increase in violence comes as Turkey is considering whether to hang Ocalan. In recent days, newspapers have for the first time started to question the wisdom of carrying out the sentence. What remains to be seen is whether renewed PKK attacks will encourage the authorities to spare Ocalan in an effort to stop the killings, or push Turkey into executing the rebel leader in vengeance.