updated 8/2/2008 4:03:22 PM ET 2008-08-02T20:03:22

A number of suspects in last week's deadly bombings in Istanbul that killed 17 people have been arrested, Turkey's interior minister announced Saturday.

Besir Atalay said most of the perpetrators of the bombings, which also injured 154, were in custody, but declined to say how many people have been arrested.

The two explosions, minutes apart, hit a packed square in a residential area of Istanbul on Sunday, July 25. It was the deadliest attack on civilians in Turkey in five years.

"I'm pleased to tell you that the entire plot is illuminated; a big part of the perpetrators were arrested in the light of strong evidence that doesn't leave any room for doubt," Atalay said.

"Those who helped, abetted, and actively took part in the bombings were arrested," he said.

Atalay declined to say to which organization, if any, those arrested belonged.

But earlier reports by the semiofficial Anatolia news agency said eight people arrested for alleged links to the bombings were also charged with being members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.

Turkey's political leadership quickly blamed the blasts the PKK. The PKK denied responsibility.

Violent clashes
The rebels have been fighting for self-rule in Turkey's predominantly Kurdish southeast since 1984. Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the fighting.

Turkey's military has hit rebels hiding in the north of Iraq with air raids — and once with ground incursion — since Parliament authorized cross-border operations late last year.

The military had lashed out against rebel targets in northern Iraq twice in the three days before the Istanbul bombings. The strikes included targets around Qandil Mountain, where the rebels' leaders are believed to live.

In January, a car bomb apparently targeting a military bus in the mainly Kurdish province of Diyarbakir killed five civilians and wounded 68 others.

Days after the attack the PKK said some of its militants, acting on their own, may have been behind that attack.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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