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Istanbul blast injures at least 22, may be suicide bomb

By Khaama Press - Sun Oct 31 2010, 10:46 am

(BBC) – The blast occurred near the independence monument in Taksim Square

Police say 22 people have been injured in what appears to have been a suicide bomb attack in the centre of Istanbul.

Television pictures from Taksim Square showed body parts lying on the ground.

No group has said it carried out the attack, but a two-month-old ceasefire by Kurdish rebels was due to expire later on Sunday, says the BBC’s Jonathan Head in Istanbul.

Riot police stationed in the square may have been the target, a police spokesman said.

Nine police officers have been injured, some very seriously, he added. Six civilians were also hurt.

A large explosion was heard throughout central Istanbul just after 0900 GMT.

Past attacks

The explosion took place right next to the independence monument on Taksim Square, which is always crowded with people, our correspondent says.

There are usually squads of riot police posted at this part of the square, as it is often the site of demonstrations.

A police spokesman has said he believes they were the target of the explosion, which he said may have been caused by a suicide bomber.

Eyewitness Aris Virkas told the BBC that he was walking through Taksim Square when he heard the blast.

“I turned around and saw policemen with blood on their face and someone lying on the ground,” he said. “People, including police, were running around in panic.

“There was a big bus with maybe 20 police officers: they ran out of the bus, trying to find out what’s going on.

“After a couple of minutes, they started asking people to step back. I think I think I heard a few gunshots afterwards, but I can’t be certain it wasn’t something else.”

Our correspondent says suspicion is likely to fall on Kurdish separatist factions, or groups linked to al-Qaeda.

The Kurdish separatist PKK party has carried out bomb attacks in Istanbul in the past, as have extreme left-wing and Islamist groups.

Our correspondent says al-Qaeda-linked groups are small but active in Turkey, and police make frequent arrests.

A group with ties to al-Qaeda carried out the bombing of the British consulate in Istanbul in 2003 in which 28 people died.

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Source: BBC

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