Death toll in Istanbul bomb attack rises to 17

 

The death toll in two bomb blasts in Istanbul rose to 17 today in an attack that sharply increased tension as a top court began deliberating on whether to ban the governing party. 

The toll rose when one person died from wounds sustained in last night’s blasts in a working class neighbourhood on the European side of Istanbul, city Governor Muammer Guler said. Five of the dead were children, he said.

More than 150 people were wounded, with 115 people being treated in hospital, including seven in a serious condition.

Armed forces chief General Yasar Buyukanit said in a statement: "The attacks, which were staged in a crowded street at a busy hour and without discriminating between men and women, young, old and children, showed once again the gory face, ruthlessness and despair of terrorism."

In the emotionally charged aftermath of the bombings, the Constitutional Court, Turkey's highest judicial body, began deliberating on whether the ruling AK Party has engaged in Islamist activities and should be closed. The party denies the charges and a ruling is expected in early August.

The court case is linked to a long-running power struggle between Turkey's secularist establishment and the Islamist-based AK Party, which are at odds over the direction of the officially secular but predominantly Muslim country.

No one has claimed responsibility for the bomb attacks, the deadliest in Turkey since 2003. But police were increasingly looking at the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

"There are signs of links to the separatist group. Work continues on that," Mr Guler told reporters, according to state Anatolian news agency.

Later the PKK condemned the attack, a news agency close to the group reported.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan cancelled his weekly cabinet meeting in Ankara to travel to Turkey's largest city to visit the site of the blasts.

Newspapers said three people had been detained in connection with the attacks.

Officials said a first blast brought people into the streets and a larger bomb hidden in a rubbish bin exploded 10 minutes later just 50 metres away.

REUTERS