ANKARA â€” The suicide bomber behind a deadly attack here was a former far-left militant believed to have joined the Kurdish separatist movement fighting a violent 22-year campaign, newspapers said on Thursday.
Officials named Guven Akkus, 28, as the man who blew himself up in the heart of Ankaraâ€™s busy Ulus commercial district during evening rush hour on Tuesday, killing six other people and injuring 121, including eight Pakistanis attending an international defence industry fair.
Ankara Governor Kemal Onal said on Wednesday that Akkusâ€™ modus operandi and the type of plastic explosive he wrapped around his body tallied with past practice of the outlawed Kurdistan Workersâ€™ Party (PKK).
But Onal said police had yet to determine whether Akkus was a member of the PKK, which has been fighting for self-rule in Turkeyâ€™s mainly Kurdish southeast since 1984, at a cost of more than 37,000 lives so far.
The PKK immediately denied any involvement in the attack, but Turkish newspapers reported on Thursday that Akkus had joined the rebel movement when he was imprisoned for two years pending trial on charges of resisting the police.
The charges stemmed from violent clashes between far-left militants and police in Istanbul on May Day 1996, which left three dead and 33 injured, most of them police officers.
Akkus, then affiliated to the ultraleftist Union of Revolutionary Communists of Turkey (TIKB), was one of the instigators of the violence, the reports said.
Several newspapers published a photograph of what they said was Akkus and another militant beating a prostrate, bloodied plainclothes policeman.
The TIKBâ€™s avowed aim is to spark a proletarian revolution to overthrow the democratic system, and its members have been involved in bombings and attacks on Turkish security forces.
But the group denied any involvement with Akkus or the Ankara explosion in a statement posted on a Europe-based far-left Turkish Internet site.
â€œActs that target innocent and defence-less civilians have never been and never will be part of our policy,â€ the statement said.
It said Akkus had been a â€œremote partisanâ€ of the group for a short time in 1997, but that the TIKB had no ties with him after his release from prison.
The mass-circulation daily Hurriyet said police were investigating whether Akkus actually intended to carry out a suicide bombing, or whether he was simply transporting a bomb that went off accidentally.
The left-leaning Cumhuriyet suggested he may have set off the explosives prematurely in panic after spotting policemen nearby.
The popular Vatan said police were also looking at whether Akkusâ€™ real target was an official reception at a museum only a few hundred yards away for delegations from 48 countries attending the armaments fair.
The event was also attended by top Turkish military brass, including the chief of general staff, General Yasar Buyukanit.
Other than fighting Turkish security forces, the PKK, blacklisted by Turkey and much of the international community, has also carried out suicide bombings.
A group calling itself the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK) claimed responsibility for a string of bombings against civilian targets last year and threatened to continue hitting the tourism sector, which attracts millions of holidaymakers every year.
Turkish officials say TAK is a front for PKK attacks on civilian targets, the PKK claims TAK is a splinter group over which it has no control.
The Turkish army regularly seizes from the PKK large amounts of plastic explosives it says militants bring across the border into Turkey from their bases in northern Iraq.
Turkey has long pressed the United States and Iraq to stamp out PKK bases in northern Iraq and has threatened a crossborder operation to do so itself if there is no action from Washington and Baghdad.