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Bomb blast wounds 31 on Istanbul sidewalk

By Staff
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ISTANBUL, Apr 17: A bomb explosion on a busy pedestrian street on the outskirts of Istanbul wounded 31 people today, police said, in the latest violence to strike Turkey in recent weeks.

Istanbul's police chief Celalettin Cerrah said two civilians were in critical condition and had been rushed to hospital for emergency surgery. He told reporters at the scene two plainclothed policemen, patrolling the area, were also injured from broken glass.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Istanbul -- a popular tourism destination -- has been struck by a series of bombings in recent weeks amid the worst street riots in more than a decade in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast, which left 16 dead.

Scores of soldiers and rebels of the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) have also been killed in separate clashes.

The bomb had been placed in a garbage bin in front of shops, cafes and kiosks in the busiest part of the pedestrian street in the Bakirkoy district on the European side of Turkey's largest city and near the airport.

The blast blew out windows of stores in the street.

The pedestrian street was closed off and forensic experts were examining the area.

Police fired into the air to disperse angry residents who initially thought a person taken in by the police was a bomber.

Police said the person was a witness.

The Kurdistan Liberation Hawks (TAK), a shadowy group which has ties to the PKK, has claimed responsibility for a series of deadly bomb blasts in Istanbul. TAK, formed by former PKK guerrillas, has warned of further attacks.

Militant groups, including Kurdish separatists, Islamists and ultra-leftists, have carried out attacks on civilians, security and military targets in Turkey in the past.

Security has been stepped up across the country, which is seeking European Union membership. The armed forces have also moved a large number of troops to areas near the border with Iraq ahead of an expected spring offensive against PKK rebels.

Reuters

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