Sniffer dogs yesterday discovered a bomb-laden vehicle parked in an Ankara garage as police increase security measures in Turkey fearing attacks timed to coincide with Sept. 11, the governor of Ankara said.
Ankara Governor Kemal Onal said police had found a van packed with explosives near a multi-storey car park in a central district of the city of 4 million people. Shops and offices in the area were quickly evacuated.
"The police efforts prevented a possible disaster ... It is too early to say who was behind this but the bomb was big and I do not want to think what might have happened if it had gone off," Onal told reporters.
Private broadcaster NTV said police had found about 300kg of explosives at the scene.
Kurdish separatists, ultra-leftists and Islamist militants have all carried out attacks in Turkey in recent years.
In November 2003, more than 60 people were killed in al-Qaeda-backed suicide bomb attacks on two synagogues, the British Consulate and the HSBC bank in Turkey's largest city, Istanbul.
Police threw a wide cordon around the Ankara car park after finding the suspicious mini-bus.
"Police ordered us to evacuate our building. People panicked and started running. Now we are waiting in the bazaar near the car park for permission to return," said Abbas Yuksel, 38, who works for a construction company based in the area.
Onal said that Sept. 11 and Sept. 12 were particularly sensitive days. Yesterday marked the anniversary of the 2001 attacks in New York and Washington, while Turkey marks the anniversary of its 1980 military coup today -- a possible focus for leftist groups.
A US air base in western Germany received a bomb threat on Monday evening, prompting a large operation by local police and US forces to secure the site, police said yesterday.
The base received a call from a man who spoke in German with a Russian or Turkish accent and threatened to attack the air base in Spangdahlem with bombs. He had at least four accomplices.
Turkey on Monday called the discovery on its territory of fuel tanks allegedly dropped by Israeli aircraft unacceptable and Syria branded it a hostile act.
Turkish officials complained to Israel over the weekend after the discovery of the unmarked fuel tanks near its border with Syria. Syria had alleged on Thursday that Israeli aircraft entered its airspace and dropped munitions.
"It was an intentional, hostile attack," Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said on Monday during a visit to Turkey.
Warplanes sometimes drop extra fuel tanks to make the aircraft lighter and easier to maneuver.
"This is an unacceptable development," Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said during the joint news conference with his Syrian counterpart.
"All countries in the region must show respect to all countries' sovereignty and carefully avoid acts that lead to tensions," Babacan said. "Otherwise, tensions would be fueled and peace and stability in the region might be harmed."
Turkey had demanded a prompt clarification from Israel, Babacan said.
The Turkish minister added that Israel had said it would investigate and make a statement on the issue.