DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Combined Sources)–A powerful explosion killing 5 people and wounding 68 others ripped through a military vehicle Thursday in Diyarbakir, the largest city in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast.
The car bomb exploded as the vehicle was passing on a road in the city center near a Turkish military base currently being used to stage cross border operations against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party in Northern Iraq.
Turkish television showed vehicles engulfed in flames as ambulances and firefighters rushed to the scene. One man’s face was covered with blood.
Several of the injured were badly wounded. Those hurt included about 30 soldiers as well as civilians and high school students, officials said. Two of the five victims were high school students attending private lessons at a nearby building. The car bomb was set off by remote control and a security operation was under way in the city to catch the perpetrators, the governor of Diyarbakir said as bomb experts looked for clues at the scene.
Police said they were looking for two people witnesses saw flee the scene, but it was not immediately clear whether they were suspects.
A woman was killed last week in a bomb blast in Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey. An explosion in a garbage bin wounded three people on Wednesday in Istanbul. Authorities suspect the PKK was behind both attacks, although no one has claimed responsibility.
Diyarbakir is a hotbed of Kurdish resistance and the PKK, listed as a terrorist group by Ankara and much of the international community, has claimed responsibility for several attacks in Diyarbakir and other major cities in its 23-year campaign for self-determination.
The US embassy condemned the blast as "a horrible example of the meaningless tragedies caused by terrorism. “The United States "reiterates its determination to stand by Turkey in the struggle against all kinds of terrorism," the statement said.
The PKK recently threatened retaliation following Turkish air strikes on its bases in neighboring northern Iraq, conducted with US intelligence assistance.
The blast came as the Turkish army stepped up action against the PKK who use neighboring northern Iraq as a springboard for attacks on Turkish targets.
The general staff has confirmed three air strikes on PKK positions in northern Iraq since December 16, in addition to a cross-border land operation into the neighboring country. Officials in northern Iraq have reported two other air raids.
Turkey has reported that at least 150 PKK members have been killed and more than 200 PKK positions destroyed in the raids so far.
Government officials and top generals have said the aerial bombing campaign of PKK positions in northern Iraq will continue "for as long as necessary."
Turkey, which has the second-largest army in NATO, has massed up to 100,000 troops near the mountainous Iraqi border but has so far held back from a full-scale invasion. Commandos have conducted limited raids into Iraqi territory.
The fight against the PKK is expected to top the agenda when Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul meets U.S. President George W. Bush at the White House next Tuesday.