Turkish army vows bomb attack strengthens resolve

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey – Turkey’s top general said on Friday a bomb attack which killed five people including three children in the city of Diyarbakir would only strengthen Turkey’s resolve to crack down on Kurdish separatist guerrillas.

Thursday’s attack on a military service vehicle in the mainly Kurdish southeast’s largest city reinforces pressure on politicians and generals to keep up an aerial bombardment campaign against separatist guerrillas in northern Iraq.

Nobody has claimed responsibility for the blast — which ripped through the vehicle as it passed near a school — but authorities blamed the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

“We are saddened by acts of terror but such incidents only increase our determination,” General Yasar Buyukanit, head of Turkey’s powerful military General Staff, said during a visit to Diyarbakir on Friday. He said the attack was aimed at civilians as well as the military.

Turkey’s government and generals have said the strikes against PKK positions in neighboring northern Iraq will continue “for as long as necessary”.

The Turkish army has massed up to 100,000 troops near the mountainous Iraqi border but has held back from a full-scale invasion. Commandos have conducted limited raids into Iraqi territory.

Diyarbakir, a mainly Kurdish city of about 1 million people, is home to large numbers of troops and security sources said the targeted vehicle was carrying 46 army personnel.

The security sources said 110 people had been injured in the blast, and eight were in a serious condition. They said five people were killed, including three children.

FOUR DETAINED

State prosecutors have granted security forces “unlimited search” powers for 16 days, enabling them to search homes, offices and vehicles in Diyarbakir without seeking prior permission.

Four people were detained late on Thursday, security sources said. CNN Turk said 40 kg (88.2 lb) of explosives were used in the attack, which was launched by remote control.

“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, saying he would visit Diyarbakir on Saturday.

In the eastern province of Van, near the Iranian border, police seized a minibus loaded with more than 50 kg (110 lb) of explosives in the early hours of Friday, the state Anatolian news agency reported.

“The explosives which have been seized had the power to cause an explosion three times the size of the one used in the attack in Diyarbakir,” Van Governor Ozdemir Cakacak told reporters. Nobody had been detained in connection with the haul.

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 due to discuss the PKK and northern Iraq during talks next week in Washington with President George W. Bush.

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