Kurds implicated in Ankara bomb attack

Thair Shaikh
Wednesday 23 May 2007 00:41

At least six people were killed and more than 80 injured when a bomb exploded close to the entrance of a shopping mall in the Turkish capital, Ankara.

The rush-hour attack, one of the worst in the city for a decade and blamed by security sources on Kurdish separatists, killed five Turks and a Pakistani national, according to officials.

The front of the five-storey Anafartalar shopping mall in the historic centre was badly damaged by the explosion. Unconfirmed reports last night suggested an explosive device was left at a bus stop close to the busy centre in the Ulus district.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, although police were holding seven people in connection with the blast last night.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who visited the scene shortly after the bombing, said: "We have seen a vicious, ruthless terror attack at Ankara's busiest time. Is it a suicide bomber or a parcel bomb? Technical teams are working on this. We have always said terror can strike anyone, anywhere. Although we have taken every precaution, we have experienced this incident." Mayor Melih Gokcek said: "This is the most horrific scene I have ever seen. It gives me great grief."

Officials said four Turks and one Pakistani were killed instantly by the explosion, while another Turkish person died shortly after arriving at hospital.

Recep Akdag, the health minister, said more than 80 people were injured, although it was not stated how many were in a serious condition. Six other Pakistanis, visiting a defence industry fair organised by the Turkish armed forces, were also wounded. Witnesses described seeing mutilated bodies lying near the entrance of the mall.

"We were cleaning the windows when the pressure from the blast pushed us to the ground. Everything was covered in dust. I could only hear people screaming," said Murat Coskun, who owns a nearby mobile phone shop. Another witness, Mehmet Yilmaz, said he saw someone on fire and tried to put out the flames by covering him with rugs.

Analysts said the attack was almost certain to raise tensions ahead of a general election in July, a contest fraught with strain between Turkey's secularist elite, the ruling Islamist-rooted AK party and Kurdish factions who accuse the government of sidelining their candidates.

Police officers at the scene were reported to have said that plastic explosives, the type favoured by separatist Kurdish rebels, were used to make the bomb. A security source said the bombing bore the hallmarks of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is waging an armed struggle for Kurdish rights.

The PKK ended a unilateral ceasefire on 18 May and security experts had expected attacks to escalate as a result. The PKK has been fighting for an ethnic homeland since 1984, and Ankara blames it for more than 30,000 deaths. On 12 May a bomb in Izmir killed one person.

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