Bomb in Turkish capital kills 5, injures 60

ANKARA (Reuters) —  A bomb outside a crowded shopping mall in Turkey’s capital Ankara killed five people and injured at least 60 people on Tuesday, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said.

“We have seen a vicious, ruthless terror attack at Ankara’s busiest time,” Erdogan told reporters at the scene of the blast.

He said steps would be taken after this attack but did not elaborate.

The extensive blast comes ahead of the busy summer tourism season and July general elections.

Erdogan said four Turks and one Pakistani were killed in the rush hour blast in the crowded and historic Ulus district in central Ankara, a heavily protected capital which rarely sees bomb attacks. Four Pakistanis were also among the wounded, he said.

A security source, who declined to be named, told Reuters all eyes were on the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) — which is waging an armed struggle against the Turkish state for greater Kurdish rights — saying the bombing bore the hallmarks of the outlawed guerrilla movement.

Shop windows were shattered, debris strewn across the street and police cordoned off the area as rescue workers carried injured people, many covered in blood, into ambulances.

“This is the most horrific scene I have ever seen. It gives me great grief,”Ankara Mayor Melih Gokcek said, adding the blast occured at the entrance of the Anafartalar mall.

Three bodies, badly mutilated, were still lying in the street in front of the five-storey building where the blast occurred, a Reuters witness said.

 Police officers at the scene said A-4 explosives were believed to the cause of the blast. A security source told Reuters the explosives believed used in the Ankara blast were similar to ones used by the PKK.

Police have detained seven people in connection with the bomb, Turkish broadcaster NTV said.

Armed forces chief of General Staff, General Yasar Buyukanit visited the bomb site. He said in comments broadcast on NTV, that he feared similar blasts could hit other large cities.

The explosion, believed to be one of the worst in the capital in years, comes amid heightened political tension in European Union-applicant Turkey.

Erdogan’s ruling AK Party has called a national election ahead of schedule to resolve a conflict with the secularist elite over a recent presidential election.

The secular establishment, including the military, judges and opposition parties, derailed the government’s plan to elect Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul as president, fearing he might weaken the official separation of religion and state.

The PKK ended a unilateral ceasefire on May 18 and security experts had expected attacks to escalate as a result.

Senior PKK commander Murat Karayilan has blamed Turkish intelligence for recent explosions in the northern Iraqi city of Arbil and said similar blasts would occur in heart of Ankara.

“We must work together against terror in all countries of the world. We see the results of it in America, Britain, Spain, Italy and all places,” Erdogan said.

The PKK has been fighting for an ethnic homeland in a campaign of bombings, kidnappings and armed attacks since 1984, and Ankara blames it for more than 30,000 deaths.

Kurdish separatists, leftist militants and hardline Islamists have all launched bomb attack in Turkey in the past.

In 2003, 30 people were killed and 146 wounded when suicide car bombs hit two synagogues in Istanbul. Five days later, 32 people were killed in similar attacks on the British consulate and HSBC bank in the city. The bombs were blamed on Al Qaeda.

Kurdish rebels launched a series bomb attacks on tourist sites in Turkey last year, killing more than a dozen people.  

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