2 dead, 11 hurt as 2 hotels in Istanbul are torn by bombs

Kurds, group linked to al-Qaida claim attacks


ISTANBUL, Turkey - Two people were killed and 11 wounded early yesterday when bombs exploded in two hotels, in attacks that Turkish officials said might have been the work of Kurdish guerrillas.

An explosion occurred at a liquefied-gas plant in another part of the city around the same time, Interior Ministry officials said, though it was unclear whether the blasts were related.

A Kurdish separatist group and an Islamic group linked to al-Qaida claimed responsibility for the attacks.

The bombs went off around 2 a.m., tearing the hotels and sending guests fleeing. The blasts killed a Turk and an Iranian at one hotel, the Pars; the wounded included two Dutch, two Chinese, a Ukrainian, a Turk and a citizen of Turkmenistan, the state-run Anatolian News Agency reported. Witnesses said the explosions came from inside the hotels.

Turkey's interior minister, Abdulkadir Aksu, said that although his initial suspicion pointed toward Kurdish rebels, he did not exclude the possibility that the bombings could have been the work of another group. "Every link is being investigated," he said.

A previously unknown Kurdish group, calling itself the Kurdish Freedom Falcons, claimed responsibility for the attacks in a phone call to the Mezopatamya News Agency in Germany, the Associated Press reported.

Kurdish guerrillas have fought the Turkish government off and on in a conflict in which 30,000 people have been killed since the mid-1980s. The largest such guerrilla group, formerly known as the Kurdistan Workers Party but now called Kongra-Gel, ended a cease-fire with the Turkish government in May and warned foreigners that they could be singled out for attack.

Still, there was some concern that the bombings could have been the work of Islamic groups.

In November, more than 60 people were killed here in bombings at the British Consulate, the HSBC bank building and two synagogues. Militants linked to al-Qaida claimed responsibility for those attacks.

A group claiming links to al-Qaida posted a notice yesterday on an Islamic Web site saying it had carried out the Istanbul bombings, news agencies reported. The group called itself the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades, named after a senior al-Qaida commander killed in Afghanistan in 2001.

"Istanbul is the opening for the bloody war we promised the Europeans," the statement said.

Last month, the group promised to begin attacks across Europe after the expiration of a truce proposed by al-Qaida's leader, Osama bin Laden.

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