DIYARBAKIR, Turkey – The death toll from a bomb explosion in southeast Turkey’s largest city has risen to five, including three children, and the number of injured stands at 110, security sources said on Friday.
Eight of the injured are in a serious condition and the death toll could increase further, they said.
The bomb, which exploded in the centre of Diyarbakir on Thursday evening, targeted a military service vehicle that had been carrying 46 army personnel as it passed near a school. The bomb was set off by remote control.
Nobody has claimed responsibility for the blast but authorities have blamed militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), whom Turkish security forces are battling both in Turkey and in nearby northern Iraq.
State prosecutors have granted security forces “unlimited search” powers for 16 days, enabling them to search homes, offices and vehicles in Diyarbakir, a mainly Kurdish city of 1 million people, without seeking prior permission.
The state Anatolian news agency quoted prosecutors as saying four people had been detained in connection with the blast. Earlier, security sources said 12 people had been detained.
“This (bombing) is an attack against our people, especially our people in the southeast, in Diyarbakir. The terrorist organization has never been the representative of our Kurdish citizens,” Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said in Ankara.
Erdogan also told reporters he would visit Diyarbakir on Saturday. General Yasar Buyukanit, head of Turkey’s powerful military General Staff, was due to visit the city on Friday.
The blast has reinforced the pressure on Turkey’s politicians and generals to keep up an aerial bombardment campaign against PKK positions in mountainous northern Iraq.
Ankara blames the PKK for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people since the group launched its armed campaign for an ethnic homeland in southeast Turkey in 1984.
The United States and the European Union, like Turkey, classify the PKK as a terrorist organization. The U.S. military is sharing intelligence with Turkey to help combat the PKK.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul is scheduled to discuss the PKK and northern Iraq during talks next week in Washington with U.S. President George W. Bush.