Hotel bombings kill two in Istanbul, police look into Kurdish link

Wext: Thursday, 12.August. @ 00:00:00 CEST


ISTANBUL, Aug 10 (AFP) - 12h53 - An apparent terror attack targeting tourist hotels and a gas complex killed two people in Istanbul Tuesday, rekindling security fears that have haunted the Turkish city since bomb attacks last year left more than 60 dead.

Police were unable to immediately identify those responsible for the overnight attacks but were looking into possible involvement by Kurdish rebels, Interior Minister Abdulkadir Aksu said.

Two near simultaneous blasts occurred at around 2:00 am (midnight GMT) in hotels in Laleli and Sultanahmet, two top tourist districts in the heart of Turkey's biggest city Istanbul, blowing out windows and starting fires.

A Turkish man and an Iranian were killed and 11 others, mostly foreigners, were injured.

Woken by the explosions, half-dressed guests were seen running out from one of the hotels with suitcases in hand. Glass and debris littered the street.

"We were sleeping when a tremor struck with a huge noise. We tried to dress as fast as possible and ran into the street," said Samira, an Iranian woman in her 30s who was staying at the Pars Hotel in Laleli.

Both of those killed were staying at the Pars.

Aksu said only two of those hurt were still in hospital Tuesday afternoon.

The injured included two Chinese, two Dutch, a Ukrainian, a Turkmen and a Turk, Anatolia news agency reported.

Four Spaniards also suffered minor injuries, officials in Madrid said.

Laleli is popular among tourists from the former Communist bloc, who come mostly for the so-called "suitcase trade" involving the trading of goods imported and exported by suitcase-carrying "tourists".

The second targeted hotel, the Star Holiday, was located in the Sultanahmet district, near two of Istanbul's top tourist attractions, the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia Chirch.

An hour later two more bombs went off at a major liquefied gas storage site in Esenyurt, in Istanbul's outskirts, causing damage but no casualties. A small fire was quickly put out by firefighters.

"For the moment everything is pointing to a terrorist attack," Istanbul police chief Celalettin Cerrah was quoted as saying by Anatolia shortly after the blasts.

Aksu said police were examining explosive materials found at the blast sites to find clues on those responsible.

"I can comment on the organization (behind the blasts) only after the laboratory examination of the explosives is completed ... No organization has been ruled out," he told reporters.

The minister, however, hinted that the blasts might have been caused by Kurdish rebels following a crackdown on the group.

Aksu said the Istanbul police recently arrested four suspected militants from the former Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged a bloody 15-year campaign for Kurdish self-rule in southeast Turkey.

The four were thought to have been involved in a July 2 bomb attack on the convoy of the governor of the eastern Tunceli province, in which six were killed, and other violent acts in the mainly Kurdish southeast.

"Our colleagues are looking into all these links," Aksu said.

The PKK, now known as KONGRA-GEL, ended a five-year unilateral ceasefire with Ankara on June 1, warning foreign tourists and investors to stay away from Turkey.

The group has since been blamed for a series of attacks on security forces in the southeast.

Security fears have haunted Turkey since November when suicide bombers with suspected links to the Al-Qaeda network detonated explosives-laden trucks at two synagogues, the British consulate and the British-based HSBC bank in Istanbul, killing 63 people and causing massive destruction.

In March, two suicide bombers, also accused of being linked to Al-Qaeda, attacked a masonic lodge in Istanbul. One of the assailants and a second person were killed.

Far-left underground groups have also been active in Istanbul, a bustling metropolis of 12 million people.

Source: AFP

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