A powerful car bomb in southeast Turkey has killed five people and injured dozens of soldiers on a military bus that was the apparent target. Authorities have blamed armed Kurdish separatists who operate in Turkey and across the border in northern Iraq, where Turkish warplanes struck last week in the latest cross-border attack.
The blast occurred Thursday afternoon in Diyarbakir, a city in Turkey's Kurdish heartland that had suffered previous bombings. In the past, the outlawed Kurdish Workers Party, or PKK, which has been fighting since the 1980s for autonomous rule, has claimed responsibility for some attacks. Fighting between the PKK and Turkish security forces has spilled over into Iraq in recent months, threatening to destabilize the Kurdish north.
The New York Times reports that a bomb in a parked car was detonated by remote control as a busload of troops was passing. Bus driver Cahit Kara told state-controlled Anatolian News Agency that the 46-seat vehicle was headed to a nearby military housing estate.
"As we were moving on the Mimar Sinan Street close to the compound, a massive explosion happened," Mr. Kara said. "We were left in the middle of flames. I got injured in the explosion and was taken under treatment at the military hospital."
Early reports suggested that two of the dead were soldiers, but it was said later that all those killed were civilians, including two pupils who had been leaving the school. Thirty soldiers were among the injured. The blast was heard almost 3km (2 miles) away.
This week, Turkish troops said they had seized over 1,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate, a potential ingredient for bombs, from houses near Diyarbakir, which has several military installations. On Thursday night, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan denounced the bombing and vowed to combat terrorism which had "showed its bloody face once more."
Citing a hospital doctor in Diyarbakir, the Chinese news agency Xinhua reported Friday that the number of injured from the attack had risen to 110, higher than local officials had said earlier.
Five people were killed and 110 others injured in the explosion Thursday, the doctor told Xinhua on Friday.
Earlier on Thursday following the blast, Diyabakir Governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu said that five people including three school students were killed and 67 others wounded, including 30 military personnel.
The British Broadcasting Corporation reports that four people have been detained by Turkish police investigating the car bombing. A Turkish prosecutor Durdu Kavak said in a written statement that the four were suspected of links to the attack, but gave no further details.
Citing security sources, Reuters reports that 12 people are in police detention as security forces assume extraordinary powers that allow them to search homes without a judicial warrant. It said the attack will strengthen the hand of Turkish generals who want to hit back hard against the PKK, which it considers to be a terrorist group.
State prosecutors have granted security forces "unlimited search" powers for 16 days, enabling them to search homes, offices and vehicles in Diyarbakir, a city of 1 million people, without seeking prior permission.
…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 organisation.
The Associated Press said Thursday's car bomb was the deadliest attack on Turkish troops since last October when a PKK ambush left 13 soldiers dead. That attack led Turkey to mass tens of thousands of troops along the border with Iraq. Turkey has since bombed PKK targets in northern Iraq using US military intelligence.
The [car bomb] attack appeared to be in retaliation for three airstrikes by Turkish warplanes against shelters of…PKK, in northern Iraq last month. The pro-Kurdish Firat news agency reported that PKK leaders in Iraq have declared big cities in Turkey targets.
…There have been two explosions in Turkey's commercial center, Istanbul, in the past two weeks, killing one and wounding nine. No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks but Istanbul Gov. Muammer Guler blamed Kurdish rebels.
In Diyarbakir, the last bombing blamed on Kurdish rebels was on Sept. 12, 2006, when 10 people died.
Turkish air raids and troop incursions into Iraq, with apparent US complicity, have riled Iraqi Kurds who are largely sympathetic to the PKK, The Christian Science Monitor reported last month. A surge in PKK attacks since late summer has put political pressure on Turkish leaders to react. But their military response could be a setback for Iraqi political reconciliation.
The scale of the Turkish incursions could further undermine any political deal-making between Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite led-government and minority Sunni factions, and exacerbate hostilities between Iraqi Kurds and the central government in Baghdad.
Already, tensions are high over disagreements about the proposed oil law and contracts the Kurdish government signed with foreign oil companies.
"There is a feeling among a lot of Kurds that the Maliki government is ready to give the Turks all the help they need to bomb locations in Kurdistan," says Sarkot Hama, a human rights activist reached by phone in the northern Iraqi city of Sulamaniyah.