Turkey mourns af­ter two deadly blasts kill dozens

Kur­dish mil­i­tant group claims both bomb­ings

The Washington Times Daily - - WORLD - BY DOMINIQUE SOGUEL

ISTANBUL | Turkey de­clared a na­tional day of mourn­ing, launched a full in­ves­ti­ga­tion and paid trib­ute to the dead Sun­day af­ter two bomb­ings in Istanbul killed 38 peo­ple and wounded 155 oth­ers near a soc­cer sta­dium. The at­tack was claimed by a Turkey-based Kur­dish mil­i­tant group.

In a state­ment posted on its web­site, the Kur­dis­tan Free­dom Fal­cons, or TAK, said two of its mem­bers had sac­ri­ficed their lives in the Satur­day night at­tack that tar­geted se­cu­rity forces out­side a sta­dium shortly af­ter the con­clu­sion of a soc­cer match.

“Two of our com­rades were hero­ically mar­tyred in the at­tack,” the state­ment read. It said the at­tack was reprisal for state vi­o­lence in the south­east and the on­go­ing im­pris­on­ment of Ab­dul­lah Ocalan, the leader of the Kur­dis­tan Work­ers’ Party or PKK. TAK is con­sid­ered by au­thor­i­ties as a PKK off­shoot.

The at­tack seemed to cor­rob­o­rate the of­fi­cial ver­sion of events al­though it gave a higher toll for the dead and wounded.

The twin car-and-sui­cide bomb­ings Satur­day night near the Be­sik­tas sta­dium en­raged top of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan, who vowed to hunt down the per­pe­tra­tors. The at­tack was the lat­est large-scale as­sault to trau­ma­tize a na­tion con­fronting an ar­ray of se­cu­rity threats.

The at­tack tar­geted po­lice of­fi­cers, killing 30 of them along with seven civil­ians and an uniden­ti­fied per­son, Turk­ish In­te­rior Min­is­ter Su­ley­man Soylu told re­porters Sun­day. He said 13 peo­ple had been ar­rested in con­nec­tion with the “ter­ror­ist at­tack” and that au­thor­i­ties had some in­sight into how and when it was planned.

There was no im­me­di­ate claim of re­spon­si­bil­ity for the at­tack but three se­nior of­fi­cials said sus­pi­cions fo­cused on Kur­dish mil­i­tants.

Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Nu­man Kur­tul­mus told the pri­vate news chan­nel CNN Turk that “ar­rows point to the PKK,” the out­lawed Kur­dis­tan Work­ers’ Party, which has waged a decades­long in­sur­gency. That as­sess­ment was echoed by Mr. Er­do­gan and Mr. Soylu.

“Our friends’ eval­u­a­tions sug­gest that the PKK was the per­pe­tra­tor. There is a frame­work as to how the act was planned, when it was planned and how it was ex­e­cuted,” Mr. Soylu said, de­clin­ing to dis­close de­tails for fear of com­pro­mis­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

In a fu­ri­ous ad­dress Sun­day at a fu­neral for the slain po­lice of­fi­cers, Mr. Soylu slammed Kur­dish rebels and their al­lies in the West, re­fer­ring to the PKK as “an­i­mals.”

“Have you ac­com­plished any­thing be­yond be­ing the ser­vants, pawns and hit men of cer­tain dark forces, of your dark Western part­ners?” he asked.

The PKK has waged a decades-long in­sur­gency against the Turk­ish state, a bat­tle that has re­sulted in the deaths of tens of thou­sands of cit­i­zens. Turk­ish of­fi­cials fre­quently ac­cuse the West of di­rectly and in­di­rectly sup­port­ing the Kur­dish in­sur­gency and of in­ter­fer­ing in Ankara’s fight against ter­ror­ism.

Mr. Er­do­gan vowed his coun­try would fight “the curse of ter­ror­ism till the end” af­ter pay­ing a visit to some of the wounded at Haseki Hos­pi­tal in Istanbul.

Sur­rounded by a crowd chant­ing his name and “God is great!” Mr. Er­do­gan vowed that the per­pe­tra­tors would be found and forced to “pay an even heav­ier price.”

Hun­dreds of flag-car­ry­ing demon­stra­tors marched Sun­day along Istanbul’s coast­line to­ward the sta­dium at the heart of the blast area. Flags flew at half-staff across the coun­try and at Turkey’s for­eign mis­sions. Passers-by placed flow­ers on bar­ri­ers sur­round­ing the soc­cer sta­dium.

The first and larger ex­plo­sion took place about 10:30 p.m. Satur­day af­ter the home team Be­sik­tas beat vis­i­tor Bur­sas­por 2-1 in the Turk­ish Su­per League. Mr. Er­do­gan said the tim­ing of the at­tack aimed to max­i­mize the loss of life but most fans had left be­fore the ex­plo­sions.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Peo­ple carry the coffins of bomb vic­tims dur­ing a memo­rial in Istanbul, Sun­day, for po­lice of­fi­cers killed by the bomb­ing out­side the Be­sik­tas foot­ball club sta­dium Voda­fone Arena late Satur­day.

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