x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Istanbul bombs kill 17 and wound 150

The deadliest attack in Turkey since 2003 occurs just hours before a court case over banning the governing party.

Forensic officers investigate the scene of the two bombs in a busy shopping district in Istanbul.
Forensic officers investigate the scene of the two bombs in a busy shopping district in Istanbul.

ISTANBUL // Bombs killed 17 people and wounded more than 150 in Istanbul late yesterday, just hours ahead of a court case over banning the governing party that has plunged Turkey into political turmoil.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the blasts, the deadliest attack in Turkey since 2003. Television showed ambulances taking away the wounded in the middle-class Gungoren district of Turkey's biggest city, near the main airport. Among the rubble and glass of broken shop windows, men carried away the wounded and children cried. "First a percussion bomb exploded and then a bomb in a garbage container," the deputy prime minister Hayati Yazici told reporters.

One witness said: "Tens of people were scattered around. People's heads, arms, were flying in the air." "I condemn those who carried out this bombing, which shows us terrorism's inhumane desire for cruelty and violence without discriminating between men and women, young, old and children," president Abdullah Gul said in a statement.

The interior minister Besir Atalay told CNN Turk television 15 people died and 15 were in critical condition. The Turkish newspaper Zaman reported on its website that three people had been detained in connection with the blasts. Forensic teams were examining the scene of the blasts and police were now investigating the security cameras in the area. "I heard the blast and I came running, people were running the other way to get away. As I approached I saw a huge black cloud coming out of the street. I saw about 10 bodies lying down on the ground," Ercan Usta, who owns a cafe nearby, said.

Turkey, which is seeking European Union membership, has been plunged into political and economic uncertainty by a court case over banning the ruling party that begins today. The Constitutional Court, Turkey's highest judicial body, will deliberate on whether the AK Party has engaged in Islamist activities and should be closed. The party denies the charges. A ruling is expected in early August. Tensions have also been rising over a widening police investigation into a suspected ultranationalist group accused of seeking to overthrow the AK Party government. So far 86 people have been arrested, including well-known critics of the government.

Governor Guler said the "heinous attack" in Istanbul, which straddles Europe and Asia, was not a suicide bombing. In Gungoren, on the European side, residents hung the red and white Turkish flag out of their homes after the bombs. Earlier this month three Turkish police and three gunmen were killed in an attack on the US consulate in Istanbul. The most serious attacks in recent years were in 2003, when 62 people were killed by militants targeting two synagogues, a bank and the British consulate in Istanbul.

The state news agency Anatolian reported a failed suicide attack on a police station in Bingol province in southeast Turkey. One of the attackers was killed, one wounded and one escaped. *Reuters