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Turkey mourns after Istanbul bombings kill 38; Kurdish militant group claims responsibility

Turkey declared a day of national mourning on Sunday after twin bombings targeting police struck the heart of Istanbul.

Published: 11th December 2016 02:48 PM  |   Last Updated: 11th December 2016 08:56 PM   |  A+A-

Istanbul_AP

A wounded police officer is taken into a nearby hospital after he was attacked at the scene of explosions near the Besiktas football club stadium after attacks in Istanbul. | AP

By AFP

ISTANBUL: Turkey declared a day of national mourning on Sunday after twin bombings killed 38 people near a football stadium in Istanbul.

Kurdistan Freedom Falcons, a militant group, has claimed responsibility for the attacks, the pro-PKK Firat news agency said, carrying a statement from the group. The group is seen as a splinter group of the better-known Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK),

A car bomb detonated Saturday outside the home stadium of football giants Besiktas after a Super Lig match between Besiktas and Bursaspor, and less than a minute later a suicide attacker blew himself up near a group of police at a nearby park.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim ordered flags to fly at half mast while President Recep Tayyip Erdogan postponed a planned trip to Kazakhstan, the state news agency Anadolu reported.

"The target was directly the police," Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus told private CNN Turk.

"Experts say at least 300-400 kilogrammes of explosives had been used. There was a pit where the car detonated," he said.

Interior Minister Suleman Soylu said 30 police, seven civilians and an unidentified person died in the blasts and 155 were injured. Thirteen people have been detained over the blasts.

"The findings point to the PKK as the authors" of the attacks, Soylu said, referring to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). 

A forensic team on Sunday inspected the stadium and the park to collect evidence, an AFP journalist said. City workers meanwhile cleaned up the area.

Later people gathered at the site of the car bombing to lay flowers, many holding Turkish flags.

"An act of terror targeted our security forces and citizens at Besiktas tonight," Erdogan said in a statement after the attacks. 

Erdogan said the blasts were timed to cause maximum loss of life.

"We have witnessed once more here in Istanbul the ugly face of terror which tramples on any form of values and morals," he said. 

'We will stand firm'

State broadcaster TRT showed images of the wreckage of a car engulfed in flames with emergency services swarming around the scene outside the sports venue.

Other footage showed wrecked police vehicles, while witnesses said the force of the blast shattered the windows of nearby homes.

"I heard two explosions in less than one minute, followed by the sound of gunshots," one witness told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Besiktas is one of Istanbul's most popular football clubs, and its fans are known for their anti-establishment views and famously played a big role in the 2013 protests against Erdogan, who was then prime minister.

Besiktas in a statement vowed to "stand firm against the vile attackers who will never achieve their goal."

The stadium is near the Ottoman-era Dolmabahce palace that houses Prime Minister Binali Yildirim's offices and about a kilometre (half a mile) from the busy Taksim Square, a magnet for tourists.

'We will defeat terror'

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Saturday's attack.

In his statement, Erdogan said that "the name or the method of the terrorist organisation that perpetrated the vile attack" did not matter. 

"Nobody should doubt that we will defeat terror, terror groups, terrorists and of course the forces behind them, with God's help," he said.

In June, 47 people were killed in a triple suicide bombing and gun attack at Istanbul's Ataturk airport, with authorities blaming the Islamic State group.

Another 57 people including 34 children were killed in August in a suicide attack by an IS-linked bomber at a Kurdish wedding in the southeastern city of Gaziantep.

Other deadly bombings have been claimed by the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg condemned the "horrific acts of terror" in Istanbul, adding: "We stand united in solidarity with our ally Turkey. We remain determined to fight terrorism in all its forms." 

The US embassy in Turkey wrote on Twitter: "Our hearts and prayers are with the people of #Istanbul tonight."

"We don’t know who is behind the attacks but nothing can justify such acts," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said.

"They also targeted a society of sport fans which was trying to recover from the horrible attacks of recent months and find its way back to normality."



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