Erdogan all but blames PKK for Istanbul bomb attack

Türkiye Materials 28 July 2008 21:55 (UTC +04:00)

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday all but named the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) as being responsible for a bomb attack in Istanbul that killed 17 people and left more than 150 injured, dpa reported.

Speaking after touring the scene of the bombings in the Istanbul suburb of Gugoren, Erdogan condemned the Sunday night attacks and said terrorism has no "religion, race or nationality."

" Turkey's fight against terrorism will continue," Erdogan said to the cheers of onlookers but he refused to specifically name the PKK as being behind the attack saying the "the terrorist group's biggest aim is to make propaganda."

"When you give it a name you are making propaganda," Erdogan said. When the prime minister finished his press conference locals shouted out in unision "damn the PKK."

The PKK however denied any link to the blasts.

"This is a dark incident. This incident has no connection to the Kurdish freedom struggle. They cannot make a connection with the PKK," Zubeyir Aydar, a former Turkish parliamentarian who is now head of the political section of the PKK, told the PKK-linked Firat news agency.

The death toll from the blasts rose to 17 on Monday as police continued to search for clues as to who was behind the attack.

More than 150 people were injured in the attack where a first small bomb which had been placed in a rubbish bin on a crowded pedestrian street in the suburb of Gungoren on the European side of Istanbul exploded at around 9:45 pm (1645 GMT).

Seven of the injured were in a serious condition on Monday, Erdogan said.

The small bomb was followed by a much larger blast around 10 to 12 minutes later and around 50 metres down the street, Istanbul Governor Muammer Guler told reporters at the scene of the blast.

A number of children were killed in the blasts, including 12-year-old Seyma Ozkan who was watching the commotion from the fourth-floor balcony of her house when the second bomb exploded, the Anadolu news agency reported on Monday.

After touring a number of hospitals to visit the injured the Erdogan and eight ministers joined a crowd of around 5,000 for funeral ceremonies for 10 of those killed Sunday night.

Opposition leader Deniz Baykal earlier said his sources told him the PKK was indeed behind the attack.

"According to information I have received from the police this was the work of the PKK," NTV television quoted Baykal. Baykal said the explosives used were similar to those used by the PKK in the past in bomb attacks in Ankara and Diyarbakir.

In addition to the PKK, other groups to have carried out bomb attacks in Istanbul include radical leftist groups and Islamic fundamentalists who in 2003 carried out a series of suicide bomb attacks on synagogues, the HSBC Bank and the British Consulate in 2003 which left dozens dead.

Three teenagers were taken into custody after the blast when they were found to be hiding in a basement of an apartment block not far from the blasts, the ANKA news agency reported. The three told police they were hiding because they were scared.

President Abdullah Gul also condemned the attacks.

"No aims can be achieved with violence, killing innocent people and terrorism," Gul said. "These attacks show how inhumane and terrible the perpetrators are."