Police were interrogating four people detained after a bomb attack targeting Turkish soldiers in a passing bus killed five civilians and wounded 68 other people, a prosecutor said Friday.
A bomb-laden car exploded in the predominantly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir as a military service bus passed. The explosion set dozens of cars on fire and shattered the windows of buildings nearby, including one packed with students preparing for university entrance exams. Four of the dead were students, Durdu Kavak, chief prosecutor in the southeastern province, said in a written statement.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack Thursday, but the Turkish leadership immediately blamed separatist Kurdish rebels.
A local official said the bombing was caused by some 88 pounds of plastic explosives. The official declined to be named, because he was not allowed to speak with journalists.
Four people were being interrogated in Thursday’s attack, Kavak said.
The U.S. Embassy in Ankara condemned the bombing, calling it “a horrific example of the senseless tragedy that terrorism brings.” The EU also condemned the bombing.
The city was the scene of another bomb attack last summer targeting military staff. Seven people were wounded.
After Thursday’s bombing, paramilitary police seized more than 140 pounds of explosives in two separate operations.
A minibus with more than 120 pounds of explosives, mostly plastic or TNT, and 50 hand grenades was found in eastern Turkey near the border with Iran, Ozdemir Cakacak, governor of Van province, told The Associated Press.
In Bursa, one of Turkey’s commercial centers, security forces raided a minibus in a gas station and found at least 20 pounds of mainly plastic explosives and detonating device. The driver was detained, the governor of Bursa said.
The rebels of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, have waged a guerrilla war since 1984 for autonomy in Turkey’s southeast. Diyarbakir is the biggest city in the region.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed the PKK for the attacks and vowed to keep up the decades-old fight against the rebels.
“This terrorist organization has never been representative of our people living in the southeast and it will not be,” he said. “We will continue our determined fight and will not compromise.”
More than 30 soldiers were wounded in Thursday’s attack. It followed a series of operations by Turkish military into the north of neighboring Iraq, where the Kurdish rebels have bases.
The military claimed to have killed up to 175 rebels in the first cross-border assault alone. That operation, which took place on Dec. 16, was followed by at least two other air assaults confirmed by the military and a brief incursion by ground forces.
Pro-Kurdish Firat news agency said the PKK has declared big Turkish cities targets.