Friday, January 04, 2008

Kurds Retaliate Bomb Diyarbikar in SE Turkey

Terror attack in the heart of Diyarbakır

An explosion in the center of the southeastern city of Diyarbakır on Thursday -- timed to the very second a military vehicle was driving by -- wounded at least 52 people, including military personnel, and killed at least five.

Several cars were burned and at least five people were killed when a bomb exploded in Diyarbakır on Thursday.
The explosion occurred in a parking lot between the centrally located five-star Dedeman Hotel and the Galleria Shopping Center at 4:55 p.m. A military vehicle carrying personnel was driving by the street in front of the parking lot at the time of the explosion, witnesses said.

“There are thirty-two injured and four dead,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced in his initial statement regarding the explosion. He said six were in critical condition.

All five killed may have been children, the Anatolia news agency has suggested. The injured were immediately hospitalized. Some of the wounded were students studying at an extra-curricular university examination course center nearby.

None of the injured taken to the hospital had died as of early evening, according to doctors at the Diyarbakır State Hospital, but they confirmed some were in critical condition. According to the regional chamber of doctors, there were 70 injured. Diyarbakır's governor has said this number was 68.

The cause of the explosion was not immediately known, but initial reports suggested it was likely a bomb. The street is on the usual route of military vehicles, reports from the region have said.

A large number of fire trucks and ambulances were sent to the area immediately after the explosion and firefighters at the scene tried to extinguish the flames caused by the explosion. At least six automobiles and a passenger bus were still in flames as rescue teams worked to pull out the injured.

Buildings in the area were evacuated in case a second explosion takes place.

The explosion occurred in an area that is also close to the city's municipality building and courthouse, whose windows were shattered at the time of the blast.

Authorities have blamed the blast on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and police searched for two suspected PKK terrorists. Diyarbakır Mayor Osman Baydemir, from the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP), has said the attack was “unacceptable,” adding: “I condemn it no matter who the perpetrator was. I hope this is the last one.”

DTP Şırnak deputy Hasip Kaplan also expressed his deep sorrow at the bombing. “These painful incidents do not solve any problems. Peaceful solutions in place of guns and violence should be emphasized in our country.”

Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Deniz Baykal said in a message released shortly after the explosion that the explosion was profoundly saddening.

Education Minister Hüseyin Çelik said, “I deeply condemn this blast if it is the result of a terrorist attack,” while Justice and Development Party (AK Party) deputy Ali İhsan Merdanoğlu said: “This can only be condemned. A bomb directed at human beings has no use for any cause. Blood and violence do not solve problems.”

The attack might have been in retaliation for three air strikes by Turkish warplanes on PKK shelters in northern Iraq last month. Ever since the PKK became cornered by the Turkish military presence in northern Iraq, its disgruntled supporters have been setting parked automobiles on fire in major cities, particularly in İstanbul. At least 50 automobiles were torched in December alone. All captured in connection with the arsons have turned out to be PKK members.

Terrorism experts have warned that people should expect attacks in urban areas following the military’s cross-border operation in northern Iraq, which started in late November. The most destructive explosion last year was carried out by the PKK in the capital. A powerful explosion in front of the Anafartalar shopping mall in Ankara’s busy Ulus district during rush hour killed 10 and injured more than 100 on May 22.

In October, police forces averted a bomb attack in Ankara at the last minute after finding a van packed with explosives near a multi-storey parking lot in what might have been a disaster had the explosives in the van detonated. The van was loaded with hundreds of kilograms of explosives. PKK involvement in that incident had also been confirmed.

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