13 off-duty soldiers killed by car bomb in Turkey

Turkish military officials pay tribute to the soldiers killed in a car bomb in Kayseri, hours after demonstrators gathered to denounce the attack.
People injured in yesterday's suicide car bomb attack waiting for medical personnel to attend to them. At least 56 people were injured in the attack.
People injured in yesterday's suicide car bomb attack waiting for medical personnel to attend to them. At least 56 people were injured in the attack.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

ANKARA • A car bomb attack on a bus carrying off-duty military personnel killed 13 soldiers and wounded at least 56 in the central Turkish city of Kayseri yesterday, an incident President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed on Kurdish militants.

The blast, coming a week after a deadly twin bombing that was targeted at Istanbul police, is likely to further outrage a nation angered by a series of attacks this year - some claimed by Kurdish militants, others by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria - and a failed coup in July.

It is also likely to increase tension in Turkey's mainly Kurdish south-eastern region, where militants from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) have waged a three-decade-long violent insurgency that saw some of its worst fighting in the last year.

Mr Erdogan, in a statement, said: "The style and goals of the attacks clearly show that the aim of the separatist terrorist organisation is to trip up Turkey, cut its strength and have it focus its energy and forces elsewhere. We know that these attacks we are being subjected to are not independent from the developments in our region, especially in Iraq and Syria."

Mr Erdogan frequently refers to the PKK as "the separatist terrorist organisation".

All of those who were killed and 48 of the wounded were off-duty military personnel. The bus had stopped at a red light near the Erciyes University campus in Kayseri when a car approached it and detonated, broadcaster NTV said.

Militants have targeted buses carrying security forces before. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak said it was similar to dual bombings outside the stadium of Istanbul football team Besiktas on Dec 10. A radical PKK offshoot later claimed responsibility for the blast.

Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus, in an interview with broadcaster NTV, said the materials used in the latest attack were similar to those used in the Istanbul twin bombing, in which 44 people died and more than 150 were wounded.

Defence Minister Fikri Isik on Twitter said Turkey would redouble its efforts to fight militancy.

"We will fight these cowards with a national mobilisation," he said, referring to Mr Erdogan's push against militant groups.

After the bombing, dozens of protesters stormed the offices of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party in Kayseri, holding up a Turkish nationalist flag from the top floor, footage posted on social media showed. The government slapped a temporary broadcast ban on footage of the attack, as is becoming typical in the aftermath of major incidents in the country.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 18, 2016, with the headline '13 off-duty soldiers killed by car bomb in Turkey'. Print Edition | Subscribe