ISTANBUL // A suicide bomber attacked a police post on a busy square in central Istanbul yesterday, killing himself and wounding 15 officers as well as 17 passers-by.
No group claimed responsibility for the attack that occurred at 10.40 am on Taksim Square on the European side of the Turkish metropolis, but the incident raised fears of a new wave of terror by Kurdish militants in the country.
The identity of the suicide bomber was not immediately known, as the body was left for hours after the attack for fear that a second load of explosives, found on the body, would detonate, Huseyin Capkin, the city's police chief, said.
Police and eyewitnesses said the suicide bomber walked towards vehicles belonging to riot police, who are permanently deployed on the square next to a monument of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Turkey's founder. The man tried to reach a vehicle before the bomb went off. "I thought it was an earthquake," one man told Turkish television.
The attack came on the day Istanbul celebrated a Turkish national holiday commemorating the proclamation of the republic on October 29, 1923, with a military parade in another part of the city and as a truce called in the summer by the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, a rebel group fighting for Kurdish self-rule, was running out. A rebel leader told a Turkish newspaper three days before the attack his organisation was in favour of a permanent cease-fire but was waiting for positive signals from the government and had not yet decided whether to prolong the truce.
There was no word from the PKK after yesterday's attack. CNN quoted a rebel spokesman as saying he had no knowledge of the attack.
Comments by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister, suggested that the government was blaming Kurdish separatists. Forces bent on destroying the unity of the country would not succeed, Mr Erdogan said in reference to the Istanbul bombing during a speech in the Kurdish area yesterday. "We are one. We are together. We are brothers," he said about Turks and the estimated twelve million Kurds in this nation of 70 million people.