24 October 2016
Emergency personnel work near a burning vehicle after an explosion in Ankara on Sunday.
Emergency personnel work near a burning vehicle after an explosion in Ankara on Sunday.

34 killed in latest car bomb attack in Ankara

A car bomb exploded at a crowded transport hub in the Turkish capital Ankara on Sunday, killing at least 34 people and wounding 125 in the second such attack in the administrative heart of the city in under a month, Reuters reports.

The blast, which could be heard several kilometers away, sent burning debris showering down over an area a few hundred meters from the offices of the justice and interior ministries, a top courthouse, and the former office of the prime minister.

“These attacks, which threaten our country’s integrity and our nation’s unity and solidarity, do not weaken our resolve in fighting terrorism but bolster our determination,” President Tayyip Erdogan said in a statement.

Two senior security officials told Reuters the first findings suggested that the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade insurgency for Kurdish autonomy, or an affiliated group were responsible.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

“Tonight, civilian citizens waiting at a bus stop were targeted in a terrorist attack with a bomb-laden car,” Interior Minister Efkan Ala told reporters after a meeting with Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, the head of the intelligence agency and security chiefs.

“Significant findings have been made, but the organization behind this will be announced once the investigation has been finalised,” he said.

NATO member Turkey faces multiple security threats. As part of a United States-led coalition, it is fighting Islamic State in neighboring Syria and Iraq.

It is also battling PKK militants in its southeast, where a two-and-a-half-year ceasefire collapsed last July, triggering the worst violence since the 1990s.

The bombing came two days after the US embassy issued a warning that there was information regarding a potential attack on government buildings in the Bahcelievler area of Ankara, just a few kilometers away from the blast site.

Health Minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu said 30 of those killed had died at the scene, while the four others died in hospital. At least one or two of the dead were attackers, he said, and 19 of the 125 wounded were in critical condition.

One of the security officials said the car used in the attack was a BMW driven from Viransehir, a town in the largely Kurdish southeast, and that the PKK and the affiliated Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK) appeared to be responsible.

TAK claimed responsibility for the previous car bombing, just a few blocks away, on Feb. 17. That attack targeted a military bus as it waited at traffic lights, and killed 29 people, most of them soldiers, near the military headquarters, parliament and other key government institutions.

A police source said there appeared to have been two attackers, one a man and the other a woman, whose severed hand was found 300 meters from the blast site.

The explosives were the same kind as those used on Feb. 17 and the bomb had been reinforced with pellets and nails to cause maximum damage, the source told Reuters.

The pro-Kurdish opposition HDP, parliament’s third largest party, which Erdogan accuses of being an extension of the PKK, condemned what it described as a “savage attack”.

State broadcaster TRT said the car had exploded at a major transport hub, hitting a bus carrying some 20 people near the central Guven Park and Kizilay Square at 6:43 p.m. (12:43 a.m. Monday in Hong Kong).

An Ankara court ordered a ban on access to Facebook, Twitter and other sites in Turkey after images from the bombing were shared on social media, broadcasters CNN Turk and NTV reported.

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