- Associated Press - Thursday, May 26, 2011

ISTANBUL (AP) — A bomb mounted on a bicycle near a bus stop exploded during the morning rush hour in Istanbul on Thursday, wounding eight people, including a police officer. The government said the attack resembled a Kurdish rebel operation.

Several ambulances rushed to the scene of the bombing on a multilane thoroughfare in a busy commercial area of Turkey’s biggest city. Media reports said one woman lost a leg in the blast and another sustained severe burns to her face. Television footage showed medics moving a woman with a neck brace on a stretcher into a hospital.

Police Chief Huseyin Capkin said the bomb was not powerful but still was designed to cause moderate destruction. Police were investigating whether the target was a police training school nearby and whether the bomb was time- or remote-controlled.

“They will not get away with it,” Chief Capkin said of the culprits. “The people of Istanbul should feel at ease.”

He said none of the wounded, including a policeman, was in life-threatening condition. Five vehicles were damaged.

CNN-Turk television said the explosion occurred as a bus passed by, shattering its rear windows and injuring passengers in the back of the vehicle. Fearing a secondary blast, police sealed off the area with yellow tape until after bomb disposal experts conducted a search.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan acknowledged that an investigation was ongoing, but he said the attack carried the hallmarks of Kurdish rebels, the Anatolia news agency reported.

“When we look at the style, it appears to be related to the terrorist organization,” Mr. Erdogan said. Turkish authorities do not mention the rebel Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, by name in public, only referring to it as a terrorist group.

In 2007, bombs were mounted on bicycles in the mostly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir in the southeast and the western coastal city of Izmir. Authorities blamed Kurdish rebels for those attacks, which killed one person and wounded about 20. The website of the Hurriyet newspaper cited a similar bicycle bombing in 2006 in the southern coastal city of Mersin, where Kurdish militants are active.

Thursday’s blast occurred amid escalating calls by Turkish Kurds for autonomy and other rights ahead of June 12 elections, as well as dark warnings from the jailed rebel chief that Turkey faces more conflict if the government does not negotiate. The PKK guerrilla force is far less potent than in the 1990s, but suspected militants from the group periodically have staged bombings in urban areas.

The guerrillas took up arms in 1984, and more than 40,000 people have died in the conflict. Much of the violence centers on the predominantly Kurdish southeast of the country, with rebels resupplying and sheltering in bases across the border in northern Iraq.

A government campaign to address the grievances of Kurds by granting more cultural rights and economic benefits has struggled for traction. The governing party is the front-runner in the election campaign, and its pledges of a new constitution and other democratic reforms after the vote are seen as a critical test of its commitment to solving the Kurdish conflict.

Turkey also has a history of attacks by Islamic and leftist extremists.

In 2003, Islamic militants tied to al Qaeda carried out suicide bombings in Istanbul, killing 58 people.

An attack blamed on al-Qaeda-affiliated militants outside the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul in 2008 left three attackers and three policemen dead.

Associated Press writers Suzan Fraser and Selcan Hacaoglu contributed from Ankara, Turkey.

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