- The Washington Times - Friday, January 4, 2008

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — A car bomb targeting soldiers killed five persons and wounded 68 — including 30 troops — yesterday in the Kurdish-dominated southeastern city of Diyarbakir, officials said.

A bus carrying the troops was passing a five-star hotel when a remote-controlled car bomb was detonated, authorities said.

Five civilians were killed, including two high school students who were leaving a building where they were taking courses for university entrance exams.

Thirty soldiers were among the 68 persons wounded, said Diyarbakir Gov. Huseyin Avni Mutlu, according to the private Dogan news agency.

“A bomb left in a car … was set off with a remote control. It was a very strong one. It was targeting a military service bus,” Mr. Mutlu said.

Authorities blamed the blast on Kurdish rebels. Police said two suspects reportedly escaped the scene, but authorities denied reports they were captured.

The attack — which shattered the windows of surrounding buildings and could be heard two miles away — appeared to be in retaliation for three air strikes by Turkish warplanes against Kurdish rebel shelters in northern Iraq last month.

The pro-Kurdish Firat news agency reported the Kurdistan Workers Party’s (PKK) leaders in Iraq had declared big cities in Turkey targets.

There have been two explosions in Turkey’s commercial center, Istanbul, in the past two weeks, killing one and injuring nine. No one has taken responsibility for the attacks, but Istanbul Gov. Muammer Guler blamed Kurdish rebels.

The rebel group has battled for autonomy in southeastern Turkey for more than two decades, a campaign that has left tens of thousands of dead. The group uses strongholds in northern Iraq for cross-border strikes.

In October, parliament authorized Turkey’s military to strike back at rebels across the border.

Turkish warplanes took off from an air base in Diyarbakir minutes after yesterday’s attack, Firat reported on its Web site. It was not clear whether the jets were on a bombing mission.

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