Car bomb blast near courthouse rocks Turkish city

Cars burning in the street at the site of the explosion in the Turkish coastal city of Izmir yesterday. Separately in Syria, at least 15 people were killed in a car bombing in Jableh city, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group
Cars burning in the street at the site of the explosion in the Turkish coastal city of Izmir yesterday. Separately in Syria, at least 15 people were killed in a car bombing in Jableh city, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Explosion kills two just days after Istanbul nightclub attack; two suspects killed, another on the run

ISTANBUL • A car bomb near a courthouse rocked Turkey's Aegean coastal city of Izmir yesterday, killing two people and injuring 11 just days after a New Year's Day attack at a nightclub in Istanbul left 39 people dead.

Police got into a gun battle with the suspected attackers following the bombing, shooting dead two of them. Police were looking for a third assailant, said the state-run Anadolu news agency.

Several ambulances were rushed to the scene after the blast outside the prosecutors and judges' entrance at the courthouse in the usually peaceful city, CNN Turk reported.

At least one vehicle was burning close to the courthouse, said CNN Turk. The mayor of the local Bayrakli municipality, Mr Hassan Karabag, told NTV television that at least one person was seriously injured in the bombing. The wounded were taken to hospital as police secured the scene.

Elite Turkish police arrested several people yesterday during fresh raids over the Istanbul nightclub attack, as the authorities tightened Turkey's borders to prevent the fugitive killer from escaping.

Special forces and counter-terrorism police swooped on a housing complex in Selimpasa, a coastal town just to the west of Istanbul, after receiving intelligence that individuals who may have helped the attacker were there.

State-run news agency Anadolu did not say how many were arrested during the raids, but said they were of Uighur origin from the Xinjiang region of China. The Uighurs are a largely Muslim, Turkic- speaking minority with significant diaspora communities across Central Asia and Turkey.

Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak yesterday said the attacker is probably an ethnic Uighur and Turkish security services now know where he might be hiding.

He described the man as a "specially trained" member of a cell and said he carried out the attack alone. "There was only one shooter. The act was carried out with one gun... but there could have been helpers inside," he said, noting that investigators were still examining whether the attacker had a lookout or other accomplices.

While the possibility of the suspect fleeing abroad could not be ruled out, security operations inside Turkey were more likely to find him, Mr Kaynak said in an interview with broadcaster A Haber. "The terrorist's identity has been established by security forces and his potential whereabouts have also been determined," said Mr Kaynak, noting that they had also found out who the suspect was linked to.

Dogan news agency reported that the authorities have tightened Turkish land borders over fears that the killer planned to flee the country. It said checkpoints would be set up to search all vehicles and people leaving the country at border crossings in Edirne, western Turkey, which has a land border with Greece and Bulgaria.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was revenge for Turkish military involvement in Syria. Excluding the latest arrests, at least 36 had been detained in the probe into the Istanbul attack by Wednesday.

Meanwhile, at least 15 people were killed yesterday in a car bombing in the Syrian city of Jableh, a bastion of the regime, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.

Syrian state television also reported the blast near the town's municipal stadium, blaming it on a suicide bomber. State TV showed a burning car surrounded by onlookers. It said the attack had taken place in a crowded street.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 06, 2017, with the headline 'Car bomb blast near courthouse rocks Turkish city'. Print Edition | Subscribe