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Dozens killed as suicide car bombing rocks Turkish capital Ankara

© Adem Altan, AFP | Police investigate the scene after a suicide car bomb ripped through a busy square in Turkey’s capital Ankara on March 13, 2016

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2016-03-14

A suicide car bomb attack tore through a crowded transport hub in the Turkish capital on Sunday, killing at least 34 people and wounding 125, in the second such attack in Ankara in under a month.

The blast, which could be heard several kilometres away, sent burning debris showering down over an area just a few hundred metres from the country's justice and interior ministries, a top courthouse, and the former office of the prime minister.

Health Minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu said at least one or two of the dead were perpetrators of the attack.

“These attacks, which threaten our country’s integrity and our nation’s unity and solidarity, do not weaken our resolve in fighting terrorism but bolster our determination,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a statement, vowing to bring terrorism to its knees. "Our people should not worry, the struggle against terrorism will for certain end in success and terrorism will be brought to its knees."

No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack.

Two senior security officials told Reuters that the initial evidence indicated that the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade insurgency for Kurdish autonomy, or an affiliated group, was responsible. Sunday's blast bore many of the hallmarks of February's bombing in Turkey, which was claimed by the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), an armed group with former ties to the PKK.

“Significant findings have been made, but the organisation behind this will be announced once the investigation has been finalised,” Interior Minister Efkan Ala told reporters after a meeting with Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, the head of the intelligence agency and security chief.

'Carefully-timed explosion'

FRANCE 24’s Turkey correspondent Jasper Mortimer said, “This happened right in the city centre where there are a lot of shops, bars and restaurants, which are very busy on a lazy Sunday afternoon – from a terrorist point of view, it was a very carefully-timed explosion."

'The blast was so powerful it gutted a nearby bus'

NATO member Turkey faces multiple security security threats, and this is the third such attack in Ankara in just five months. As part of a US-led coalition, it is fighting the Islamic State (IS) group in neighbouring Syria and Iraq. It is also battling PKK militants in its southeast, where a two-and-a-half-year ceasefire collapsed in July, triggering the worst violence since the 1990s.

The bombing came two days after the US Embassy issued a warning that there was intelligence regarding a potential attack on government buildings in the Bahcelievler area of Ankara, just a few kilometres from the blast site.

The United States condemned the attack, saying: “This horrific act is only the most recent of many terrorist attacks perpetrated against the Turkish people. The United States stands together with Turkey.”

Pellets and nails

A security officials said the car used in the attack was a BMW driven from Viransehir, a town in the largely Kurdish southeast, and another police source said it appeared there was two attackers, a man and a woman. The explosives were the same as those used during the February 17 attack and was packed with pellets and nails to inflict maximum damage, the source also told Reuters.

The pro-Kurdish opposition HDP, parliament’s third largest party, which Erdogan accuses of being an extension of the PKK, condemned what it described as a “savage attack”.

An Ankara court ordered a ban on access to Facebook, Twitter and other sites in Turkey after images from the bombing were shared on social media and broadcasters CNN Turk and NTV.

'No justification'

World leaders were unanimous in condemning the atrocity.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault described it as a “cowardly attack”, while British Prime Minister David Cameron said he was “appalled.” Russian President Vladimir Putin described it as “inhuman,” his spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the country’s ambassador to Turkey, James Larsen, was in a car at an intersection 20 metres from where the bomb was detonated. “It really does bring it home to us that a terrorist attack can take place at any time, anywhere,” Bishop told Nine Network television while on a diplomatic trip to Fiji.

Militant groups

Turkey views the unrest in its largely Kurdish southeast as deeply linked to events in northern Syria, where the Kurdish YPG militia has been seizing territory as it fights both the IS group and rebels battling President Bashar al-Assad. Ankara fears those gains will stoke separatist ambitions among its own Kurds.

In its armed campaign in Turkey, the PKK has historically only struck security forces and says that it does not target civilians. A direct claim of responsibility for Sunday’s bombing would indicate a major tactical shift.

IS group militants have been blamed for at least four bomb attacks on Turkey since June 2015, including a suicide bombing that killed 10 German tourists in the historic heart of Istanbul in January. Local jihadist groups and leftist radicals have also staged attacks in Turkey in the past.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP, REUTERS)

Date created : 2016-03-13

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