At least 6 dead in bomb attack outside busy mall in Istanbul

COLUMN

May 23, 2007|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

ISTANBUL, Turkey -- A powerful bomb exploded yesterday evening outside a busy shopping mall in Turkey's capital, killing at least six people, injuring more than 80 and heightening tensions in advance of contentious national elections.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the blast, which Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan described as a "vicious, ruthless terror attack."

The explosion outside the five-story Anafartalar mall in Ankara shattered windows, wrecked a bus shelter and scattered debris over a wide area.

The popular mall, in a landmark historic district, was crowded with early-evening shoppers when the explosion occurred. The private broadcaster NTV reported that seven arrests had been made, but it provided no details.

It was the worst such attack in recent memory in Ankara, a normally tranquil capital. However, Turkey has been hit by a number of bombings in recent years, some carried out by Islamic militants and some by Kurdish rebels.

There was no immediate indication of any link to Turkey's coming elections, but the campaign has polarized the country.

Erdogan moved up the polling by more than three months after the country's highest court halted voting in parliament for president - a post that his party's candidate, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, had been poised to win.

Over the past month, secular Turks have been staging large street rallies throughout the country to protest the presidency going to a member of Erdogan's party, which has its roots in political Islam but insists it has no Islamist agenda.

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