A suspected car bomb killed three people and wounded 15 on Tuesday in a neighborhood of the Turkish capital Ankara where many government buildings are located, Interior Minister Naim Sahin said.
“Three citizens were killed and 15 were injured, five of whom are in critical condition,” Interior Minister Sahin told Turkish television.
Sahin said there was a “high possibility that it was a terrorist attack,” using the government’s shorthand for attacks by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
President Abdullah Gul, on an official visit to Germany, strongly condemned the attack, which he described as “inhuman”.
The blast struck the central Kizilay neighborhood less than a kilometer from the prime minister’s office, the headquarters of the chief of general staff and several ministries.
Sahin said a parked car exploded, setting off a chain of blasts as the liquefied petroleum gas tanks of several other vehicles exploded on a busy street. Earlier reports had said 15 people were wounded, 5 of them seriously.
The blast comes days after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey was ready to launch a ground assault on camps of the rebel Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) across the border in northern Iraq in reprisal for a recent spate of rebel attacks.
Turkey’s government has been considering a series of measures in the face of the upsurge in attacks, including a request to parliament to extend its authorisation for cross-border military operations for one more year after it expires next month.
Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of Turkey’s main opposition party, condemned the attack, saying innocent civilians had become “victims of terror”.
Turkish aircraft have repeatedly bombed PKK bases in northern Iraq since August 17. According to the government, more than a 100 rebels have been killed.
Turkey has launched 25 cross-border land operations against PKK targets in Iraq during the last 25 years. The latest incursion was in February 2008.
The PKK, listed as a terrorist group by Ankara and much of the international community, took up arms in Kurdish-majority southeast Turkey in 1984, sparking a conflict that has claimed about 45,000 lives.
Several outlawed armed groups –Kurdish, Islamist and leftist extremist -- have carried out bomb attacks in Istanbul in the past.
In May 2007, a suicide bomber killed six other people in an attack in downtown Ankara, which was blamed on the PKK.
Bomb attacks on HBSC bank and the British consulate in Istanbul in 2003 left 57 people dead.
In May of this year, a bomb left near a bus stop in central Istanbul injured eight people.