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Bomb blast at Turkish ruling party, two injured

Written by: Staff
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ISTANBUL, Apr 5 (Reuters) A bomb ripped through the offices of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on the outskirts of Istanbul today, injuring two people, a local party official said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, but it happened against the background of more than a week of street clashes between police and Kurdish protesters in which 16 people have died.

Much of the demonstrators' anger over high unemployment, poverty and Ankara's refusal to grant more autonomy to the mainly Kurdish region has been targeted against the government, and AKP offices have been damaged before.

The blast came five days after another bomb attack in Turkey's largest city. That was blamed on Kurdish militants.

Today's bomb blew out the building's windows in the Esenyurt suburb on the European side of Istanbul, television pictures showed. Police had no immediate comment.

''A bomb which was put in front of the door exploded. The building was rendered unusable. Two of our friends were injured,'' AKP district chairman Fethi Kaya told Reuters.

It was not clear how badly hurt the casualties were.

Last Friday, a bomb blast at a bus station killed one person and injured 13 others in central Istanbul.

It was blamed on the Kurdistan Liberation Hawks (TAK), which has ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

A TAK statement this week called on Kurdish youths to ''light up the darkness of each evening with fires and other actions.

Turkish cities should be covered with black smoke''. It was not possible to verify the statement's authenticity.

CLASHES NEAR IRAQI BORDER There has been an upsurge in guerrilla violence in the mainly Kurdish southeast. Security officials said 10 people had been killed in clashes with rebels from the PKK in recent days.

Troops pursued a large group of PKK guerrillas in Gabar mountain near the Iraqi border on Tuesday night as part of an anti-rebel operation launched last week.

Four soldiers, including a sergeant were killed in the firefight in Sirnak province and two more soldiers died when they stepped on a mine. During the same operation, four PKK militants were killed in a clash on Cudi mountain.

In a separate incident on Tuesday night, rebels attacked a police station with shoulder-fired rockets in southeastern Bingol province, killing one policeman and injuring seven.

Police defused a grenade attached to 1.5 kg (3.3 lb) of plastic explosives at the scene, a police statement said.

More than 30,000 people, mostly Kurds, have been killed in the separatist conflict since the PKK took up arms against the state in 1984 with the aim of carving out an ethnic homeland in southeast Turkey.

The European Union and the United States, like Ankara, view the PKK as a terrorist group.

In street clashes since last Tuesday, thousands of Kurds have hurled stones and petrol bombs at police who have responded by throwing tear gas canisters and firing bullets above the heads of protesters. Most victims died from gunshot wounds.

Some 720 people have been detained in connection with the street violence, of whom 418 have so far been remanded in custody awaiting trial. More than 300 people have been injured.

Turkey began membership talks with the EU last October and Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said on Tuesday the situation was causing very serious concern and he hoped Turkish authorities would refrain from ''excessive use of force''.

REUTERS CH BS1830

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