x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Ankara car bomb explodes near prime minister's office

Three are held after at least three people die and 34 are injured after a car bomb blamed on a terrorist attack went off near the prime minister's office in the Turkish capital.

Firefighters are seen working at the site of a suspected car bomb explosion in a busy street in the Turkish capital, Ankara, Turkey. AFP Photo
Firefighters are seen working at the site of a suspected car bomb explosion in a busy street in the Turkish capital, Ankara, Turkey. AFP Photo

ISTANBUL // Three people died and 34 were injured yesterday when a powerful car bomb set off a chain reaction of fuel explosions in other vehicles in a crowded street close to the prime minister’s office in Ankara.

No group claimed responsibility, but some politicians pointed the finger at Kurdish rebels.

“It is highly probable that it was a terrorist attack,” said Idris Naim Sahin, the interior minister.

The office of the top state prosecutor also said the explosion was a terrorist bomb attack. The street where the blast took place, Kumrular Caddesi, is close to the prime minister’s office, the justice ministry and the headquarters of the Turkish general staff.

Mr Sahin did not say who specifically was the target. “Everybody is the target,” he said.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister, is in New York for the United Nations General Assembly.

Abdullah Gul, the president, who was on a visit to Germany yesterday, also described the blast as a terrorist act. “I strongly condemn this terror,” he said.

Mr Sahin said the bomb hidden in a parked car triggered explosions of liquefied gas tanks in other cars on the street. The blast could be heard throughout the city, and television footage showed burning cars and a black column of smoke.

Bulent Tanik, the mayor of the local district of Cankaya, said the power of the explosion caused terrible injuries. “Some people had their legs ripped off, others lost their arms,” he said.

Three people were arrested shortly after the blast. A woman standing near the scene of the explosion was held after shouting, “Long live our struggle!” as she was escorted away by police, Dogan news agency video showed. Officers also arrested a man as he was trying to board a bus to the eastern city of Tunceli at Ankara’s bus terminal. There were no details of the third arrest.

Mr Sahin said police were going through footage of surveillance cameras to find clues. The car used in the attack was bought with cash last week, he said.

The minister and other government officials did not comment on who may have been behind the attack.

Oktay Vural, a leading member of the right-wing Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), suggested the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) was responsible.

He said the government had made numerous concessions to the PKK, even proposing to no longer call the rebel group a “terrorist organisation”, but a “criminal organisation”, thereby encouraging Kurdish militants. “This is what things have come to,” Mr Vural said. “Is there nothing that can protect this state?”

tseibert@thenational.ae