x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

PKK denies responsibility for Istanbul bomb

After 32 are injured in explosion, leading Kurdish militant group insists it is still maintaining a truce announced in August and designed to run until elections next year.

ISTANBUL // The PKK, Turkey's main Kurdish rebel group denied today any responsibility for the blast in Istanbul's Taksim Square on Sunday which wounded 32 people, saying it was still maintaining the truce announced on August 13.

The PKK also said it would extend a truce until until the country goes to the polls.

"Our movement has decided to extend the non-action process until the 2011 general elections in order to impose a democratic solution process [on Ankara] and ensure that the parliamentary elections in Turkey take place in a healthy environment," said a statement carried by the Firat news agency.

Turkey's next general elections have not been formally scheduled yet but the country's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said last month that his party had earmarked the first week of June 2011.

Firat also reported that the PKK leadership had denied responsibility for the blast in Taksim Square.

The PKK statement said: "It is not possible for us to carry out such an action at a time when our movement has decided to extend a truce process. We are in no way involved in this attack,."

Turkey's interior minister, Besir Atalay, said investigators had obtained clues on the bombing, but more time was needed to make a definite conclusion.

"We have findings but we will make a statement once we are sure and after various dimensions [of the attack] have been evaluated," he told reporters.

No one has been detained so far over the incident, he added.

The bomber blew himself up at a police patrol at Taksim Square as he tried to get into a police bus, wounding 15 officers and 17 civilians. No one was in life-threatening condition.

The bomber used A4 explosives, a type that several PKK militants were caught carrying recently in operations across Turkey, the daily newspaper Milliyet reported.

A senior security official, quoted by the liberal daily newspaper Radikal, said the evidence was leading investigators to rule out far-left groups.

"The actual suspicion has focused on the obvious organisation or some of its elements who are out of control or have split up from the group," the unnamed official said, referring to the PKK.

Some commentators suggested the attack could be the work of PKK hardliners opposed to dialogue and might point at discord among PKK ranks.

Last week a top PKK commander, Murat Karayilan, said the group would no longer target civilians and wanted to extend the truce indefinitely if Ankara showed a commitment to a peaceful solution to the 26-year-old Kurdish conflict.

Kurdish attacks on civilians are claimed mostly by a shadowy group that the PKK says is beyond its control. Ankara insists the group is a front for PKK attacks on civilians.

The Turkish government, boosted by its victory in a referendum on constitutional reform held on September 12, has launched a cautious initiative aimed at cajoling the PKK into laying down arms.

The authorities appear to have included the jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan in the effort, with his lawyers acting as intermediaries and holding meetings with him on the prison island of Imrali.

Even though he has been behind bars since 1999, Ocalan retains influence over the PKK and often issues guidelines to the rebels through his lawyers.

In comments on the suicide bombing Monday, Mr Erdogan decried inadequate European support against terrorist groups, an apparent reference to the PKK.

Such attacks "are the product of terrorist organisations and the countries that tolerate them," he charged, without giving names.

Ankara has long accused European countries of tolerating PKK activities on their soil and failing to ban organisations linked to the rebels.