Istanbul suicide attack highlights Turkey's struggle with militant groups
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the Istanbul suicide attack in the heart of the city, which injured 17 civilians and 15 police, Sunday.
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“We are actually in favor of a permanent cease-fire,” Murat Karayilan told the Radikal newspaper. “We are waiting. We have not decided yet.”Skip to next paragraph
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Scene of the blast
At the scene of the blast, glass covered nearby sidewalks and streets, and forensic teams scoured the area for evidence before taking away the remains of the bomber.
Police reported that a second explosive device was found and failed to detonate. Close to the explosion site, a small propane tank typically used for cooking in Turkish homes, and a large cook pot could be seen.
Police buses and water canon vehicles are regularly parked in the spot, and serve as a base for the riot police who constantly patrol the thousands of tourists and Turks who daily walk along the popular Istiklal pedestrian avenue, which starts at Taksim.
“Do you know what happened?” shouted one Turkish policeman in anger, as he forced people away moments after the blast. “My friend, he is there. He is dead.”
That panicked reaction overstated the toll of the attack, although 17 civilians and 15 police were wounded, two of them critically. It was the third suicide attack ever to hit the square, which is often used to stage political protests of all kinds.
The first such attack came in 1999 and injured 10 people, among them three policemen. No claim of responsibility was ever made.
The second came in 2001, when a leftist militant group, the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C), killed two policemen and a civilian, and wounded eight others. The Anatolia news agency reported on Sunday morning that, prior to the bomb blast, some 16 members of the DHKP/C were arrested in raids in Istanbul and elsewhere.
Though Taksim Square has occasionally been targeted, explosions have in years past repeatedly rocked Istanbul and the capital, Ankara, as well as sites across southeast Turkey where ethnic Kurds are in the majority.
Five soldiers were killed last June when their bus was bombed in a suburb of Istanbul. A faction of Kurdish militants called the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons and claiming loyalty to jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, but disavowed by the mainstream PKK, said it was responsible.