A bomb destroyed a minibus Saturday near a popular Aegean Sea beach in western Turkey, killing five people, including tourists from Britain and Ireland, and wounding 13.
The British Foreign Office in London said one British citizen was killed and five others were injured. Separately, a regional governor said an Irish tourist and two Turks were killed in the blast in Kusadasi, 45 miles south of the port city of Izmir.
The Anatolia news agency reported that the device exploded in the lap of a female bomber. A police official in Kusadasi said preliminary evidence pointed to a Turkish female suicide bomber, whose body was torn apart by the force of the bomb. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because superior officers had not granted permission to speak publicly.
No claim of responsibility
However, the deputy governor of Aydin province, Nurdogan Kaya, said the bombing was traced to a package planted on the minibus.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but Kurdish rebels recently have carried out bombings in Aegean resort towns. On April 30, a bomb hidden inside a cassette player killed a police officer in Kusadasi.
Leftist and Islamic militants also are active in the country, whose lucrative tourist industry was expected to welcome more than 20 million visitors this year.
Speaking shortly after the explosion, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey was taking anti-terror measures, but added that “it is not possible to stop it 100 percent, no matter how strict security measures you take.”
Civilians rush to help
A top Kurdish rebel commander, Zubeyir Aydar, condemned the attack to the Germany-based Mezopotamya News Agency, which often carries rebel statements.
The blast tore off the bus’ roof and sides as it traveled through the town square, just a few yards from the shore. Civilians ran to the burning wreckage after the attack and carried away the injured.
The British Foreign Office said three Britons suffered serious injuries and two had minor injuries.
The British and Irish foreign ministers condemned the attack.
In London, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw described the blast as a “repugnant act.”
“As always we stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Turkey, in sympathy and in our refusal to allow terrorists to destroy our values and our liberty,” he said.
In November 2003, terrorist attacks in Istanbul against the British Consulate-General and the local headquarters of London-based bank HSBC killed 58 people and injured hundreds.
“I am deeply shocked by this cruel and senseless act,” said Dermot Ahern, Ireland’s minister for foreign affairs. “Four people have lost their lives, including a young Irish woman. ... There can be no justification whatsoever for this atrocity.”
Private NTV television reported that police suspect that C-4 plastic explosives were used in the attack, and authorities had information that an attack could occur in Kusadasi.
Turkish military and intelligence officials have said Kurdish rebels possessed hundreds of pounds of C-4 obtained from Iraq.
Earlier this month, a bomb hidden in a soda can wounded 21 people, including three foreign tourists, in the Aegean coastal town of Cesme.
A Kurdish guerrilla group calling itself the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons Organization or TAK claimed credit for the prior attacks in Cesme and Kusadasi, and it vowed to maintain attacks against tourist areas.
Kurdish rebels have carried out several suicide bomb attacks since 1996, when six soldiers were killed in the eastern city of Tunceli.
In 1999, two female suicide bombers carried out separate attacks injuring 27 people. The attacks, which targeted police stations, came after the capture of Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan.
Since 1984, the Turkish military has been battling rebels of Ocalan’s autonomy-seeking Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, in the overwhelmingly Kurdish southeast, a conflict that has claimed some 37,000 lives.
Fighting in the region tapered off after a rebel truce in 1999, which followed Ocalan’s capture. But there has been a surge in violence since June 1, 2004, when the rebels declared an end to their cease-fire, saying Turkey had not responded in kind.
TAK is believed to be linked to the PKK.