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Suicide car bombing kills 34 in central Ankara


Ankara : A suicide car bomb ripped through a busy square in central Ankara, killing at least 34 people and wounding 125, officials said, the latest in a spate of deadly attacks to hit Turkey.

The explosion at 6:45 pm struck a bus stop near Kizilay square, a bustling commercial area and local transport hub, reducing buses to charred husks and damaging nearby shops.

Officials said the blast was caused by a vehicle packed with explosives, which the interior minister said was driven by one or two attackers who had deliberately targeted the bus stop.

The attack is the third to strike Ankara in five months, in an area close to the prime minister’s office, parliament and foreign embassies, as Turkey grapples with twin security threats from the Islamic State group (IS) and Kurdish rebels.

As recently as Friday, the US embassy issued a warning about a possible plot to attack central Ankara, advising American citizens to avoid the area.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for Sunday’s killings, but Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said investigators were following up on solid leads.

“We have concrete information on the terrorist group behind the attack,” he said in a statement. “We will soon have results from the inquiry, and will make them public.”

Canberra said Australia’s ambassador to Turkey James Larsen was in his car just 20 metres (yards) away from the bomb when it went off.

The blast killed 34 people and wounded 125 others, 19 of them seriously, Health Minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu said.

“Thirty people were killed on the spot and four others died in hospital,” Muezzinoglu said following a meeting of ministers and security officials called by Davutoglu.

A judge in Ankara banned the spreading of information about the attack online, particularly on social media sites, where photos and videos had been circulating.

It is the second major attack in the heart of Ankara in less than a month, after 29 people were killed in a suicide bombing claimed by a dissident faction of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) on February 17.

Sunday’s blast bore many similarities with the February bombing, which the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), linked to the PKK, said was in revenge for operations by the Turkish military in the southeast of the country.

A two-year ceasefire between the government and Kurdish rebels collapsed last year and since December security forces have been waging a major campaign against the PKK.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the government would “never abandon its right to legitimate defence against the terrorist menace”.

“Turkey is fighting a determined struggle against terrorist organisations,” he said.

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