Blast kills 5 at Turkish resort

Two tourists among dead as minibus is blown up at center of Aegean town

July 17, 2005|By Amberin Zaman | Amberin Zaman,LOS ANGELES TIMES

ANKARA, Turkey - A powerful bomb blast destroyed a minibus in a Turkish seaside resort yesterday, killing five people, among them an Irish and a British tourist, and wounding 13 others, officials said.

Police were investigating whether a suicide bomber or a parcel bomb caused the blast in the center of the Aegean town of Kusadasi, a popular destination for foreign tourists.

The attack came just a week after a bomb attack, for which Kurdish separatists have claimed responsibility, wounded 20 people in the nearby resort of Cesme.

An Irish woman identified as Tara Whaley, 17, and three Turkish nationals died at the scene yesterday. A British woman died after being taken to a hospital, according to Kusadasi government official Ali Baris.

Five other Britons were hurt, including three who were in serious condition, the Foreign Office in London said.

The explosion occurred at 10:30 a.m. as the bus was heading toward a beach. Turkish television showed the injured lying on the ground close to the charred remains of the vehicle. Rescue workers used newspapers to cover body parts strewn around the wreckage. Speaking shortly after the explosion, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey was taking anti-terror measures. but "it is not possible to stop it 100 percent," he said.

Speaking in London, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said: "We condemn this repugnant act, which has ruined the lives, and the holidays, of so many innocent people. We stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Turkey."

A senior Turkish police official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, dismissed speculation that the attack was the work of Islamic militants. He said it was more likely to have been carried out by the separatist Kurdish rebel group known as the PKK as part of a newly launched campaign to sabotage Turkey's multibillion-dollar tourism industry.

A group affiliated with the PKK called the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons claimed responsibility for the bomb attack in Cesme a week ago. The rebels issued a statement earlier this month warning foreign tourists against traveling to Turkey.

The PKK waged a 15-year armed campaign to establish an independent Kurdish state. About 40,000 people, most Kurds, died in the conflict.

The PKK called a unilateral truce in 1999 after the capture of its leader, Abdullah Ocalan. The rebels called off their cease-fire on June 1 last year, saying that the Turkish state had repeatedly rebuffed its demands to negotiate a lasting peace.

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