Kurdish militants are being blamed for a suicide car bomb attack which left 34 people dead and injured more than 100 in the heart of Turkey’s capital Ankara.
The explosion in Kizilay Square, a key commercial and transport hub close to the city’s embassy area, reduced several vehicles including a bus to burnt-out wrecks.
Security sources said the bomb had been packed into a BMW which had a man and a woman inside.
One official said the car was driven from Viransehir, a town in the largely Kurdish south-east, and that the Kurdish PKK and the affiliated Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK) appeared to be responsible.
“Thirty people were killed on the spot and four others died in hospital,” Turkey’s Health Minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu said.
A police source said there appeared to have been two attackers, one a man and the other a woman, whose severed hand was found 300 metres from the blast site.
The explosives were the same kind as those used in an attack on February 17 that killed 29 people, the source said.
The bomb had been reinforced with pellets and nails to cause maximum damage, he added.
A senior security official said gunfire was heard after the blast.
Medical sources said 125 wounded people had been taken to 10 different hospitals around the city, with a dozen said to be in a very serious condition.
Australian ambassador’s lucky escape
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Australia’s ambassador to Turkey, James Larsen, narrowly escaped the explosion.
“He was at the intersection in his car where this bomb went off and was about 20 metres away,” Ms Bishop told Channel Nine.
“So, he was able to give me a first-hand description of the horror of what went on, and the impact in Ankara has been quite significant.”
Turkey has been hit by a spate of deadly attacks since the middle of last year, most of them blamed on the Islamic State (IS) group, including a double suicide bombing in Ankara in October that left 103 people dead.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu chaired an emergency meeting of security chiefs in the wake of the latest attack, Dogan news agency reported.
An Ankara court ordered a ban on social media access in Turkey after images from the blast were shared.
Turkey faces twin threat
Coming so soon after the February bombing, Sunday’s attack will raise fresh questions about Turkey’s ability to manage the twin security threat posed by IS and Kurdish rebels, as Ankara presses the European Union to speed up its membership process in return for help with the migrant crisis.
The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), linked to the PKK, said it carried out the February bombing in Ankara as revenge for operations by the Turkish military in the south-east of the country and warned foreign tourists not to visit the country.
A two-year ceasefire between the Government and Kurdish rebels collapsed in the middle of last year and since December, security forces have been waging a major campaign against the PKK.
Strict, 24-hour curfews were imposed in a number of Kurdish-dominated towns and cities to allow the military and police to pursue the fight against fighters who had dug trenches and put up barricades.
Sunday’s attack came hours before curfews were due to take effect in two more towns in the south-east as a prelude to fresh military operations.
Authorities said restrictions would be slapped on Yuksekova, near the Iranian border, and Nusaybin, on the frontier with Syria, to “restore order and security” following an increase in “terrorist activity”.
Ankara has vowed to wipe out the PKK, classed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey and its Western allies, and has said “clean-up” operations in Yuksekova, Nusaybin and Sirnak, a third Kurdish city, are imminent.
– with agencies