A suicide bomb ripped through crowds of shoppers and cafe--goers in the heart of Istanbul yesterday, wounding 22 people, as an extended unilateral ceasefire by the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) came to an end.
The blast targeted riot police patrolling Taksim Square in the center of the Turkish economic capital, police chief Huseyin Capkin said.
“We think it was a suicide attack,” he said, adding that 12 of the injured were civilians and 10 were police.
Capkin said none of the injured were in danger and the only fatality was the bomber, who blew himself up before reaching his intended target.
Capkin did not say who was suspected of responsibility, but the rebel PKK and extreme left-wing groups have carried out bomb attacks in the past in Istanbul.
Analysts quoted by television stations pointed to likely PKK involvement, whose unilateral ceasefire declared on Aug. 13 was due to end yesterday. The PKK said on Sept. 30 that it had decided to extend its truce by one month, an announcement taken to mean it would have ended on Saturday.
Istanbul Governor Avni Mutlu said the bombing was the work of a “terrorist organization” without elaborating. He told reporters that an investigation was underway to identify the culprits.
Murat Karayilan, a top commander of the outlawed PKK, last week said the PKK would no longer target civilians and wanted to extend a unilateral truce indefinitely if the government demonstrates a commitment to dialogue.
Taksim Square, and the streets leading to it, attract tens of thousands of people a day and are patrolled by anti-riot police around the clock.
According to witnesses quoted by news channels, the powerful blast shook the area around 10.30am, blowing out windows in nearby offices and hotels.
Police immediately threw a security cordon around the area, and streets including the pedestrianized historic Istiklal were closed off, the CNN-Turk and NTV channels reported.