Bombs Explode In Turkey
Ahead Of NATO Summit

By James C. Helicke
Canadian Press

ISTANBUL, Turkey (CP) -- A bomb exploded on an Istanbul bus Thursday, killing at least four people and wounding 14, and another bomb went off in front of the Ankara hotel where U.S. President George W. Bush is to stay before Monday's NATO summit, wounding three.
Police said they suspected far-left Marxists in both attacks, the latest in a series of blasts - most of them small, without casualties - ahead of the NATO gathering, which Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham will be attending.
Bush arrives in Ankara on Saturday night to meet with Turkish leaders before heading to the summit in Istanbul.
White House press secretary Scott McClellan said, "These terrorist attacks are intended to disrupt preparations for the upcoming NATO summit." He added that Bush's schedule would not be changed.
Istanbul has been the scene of al-Qaida attacks in the past, but many Turks also are angry over Bush's visit because of high opposition to U.S. policies in neighbouring Iraq.
The NATO summit beginning Monday also will be attended by British Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac, among others.
Prime Minister Paul Martin is staying home because of Monday's federal election. He is sending Graham in his place.
Security in Istanbul is expected to be extremely tight for the summit.
Graham told reporters Thursday during a conference call that "security is a huge issue now at these important international conferences" which "may make it ... more awkward to get around than it normally is."
"But it's certainly not going to stop us from going there and doing our business."
The Istanbul explosion occurred as the bus passed through the residential Fatih district, about eight kilometres from the summit's venue.
The bomb - a concussion grenade - exploded in the lap of a woman in her early 20s who apparently was transporting the device when it accidentally went off, said Istanbul Gov. Muammer Guler. The woman was among the four killed, said Korhan Taviloglu, a doctor at Capa Medical Centre.
"It was apparently a bomb that was being carried," Guler said. "It is understood that the target was neither the bus nor the passengers aboard."
Concussion grenades produce a loud noise and shock wave but usually cause little damage - unless they go off in a confined area. Thursday's blast blew out bus windows and tore through passengers.
"I saw the bus, its windows broken. People on the bus were in a panic. They were trying to escape and the driver was struggling to open the door," said Murat Gulen, a pharmacist whose shop is across the street.
Witness Necdet Devrim told NTV television that he saw "injured people on the floor. They were screaming and bleeding. Arms and legs were on the street - it was an awful scene."
Fifteen people were wounded, said Taviloglu.
About a half-dozen small-sound bombs have exploded in Istanbul in recent days, injuring several people. Leftist groups have used the bombs in the past.
"We are considering the likelihood of a Marxist-leaning organization" being behind the attack, Istanbul's governor said.
The blast in Ankara, about 400 kilometres east, went off 75 metres from the entrance to the Hilton hotel, injuring a civilian and two policemen.
The officers were approaching the package containing the explosive after an anonymous tip that a bomb was placed nearby, Police Chief Ercument Yilmaz said. The blast tore off the foot of one officer, while the other suffered scratches on his face, said Adil Surat, head of the trauma unit at Hacettepe University hospital, speaking to the Anatolia news agency.
A small Marxist group, MLKP-FESK, claimed responsibility for the Ankara blast, private NTV television reported. Police would not comment on the report.
Bush is scheduled to meet Sunday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Ahmet Necdet Sezer in Ankara.
Militant Islamic, Kurdish and leftist groups have carried out past attacks in Turkey, and scores of people believed to be linked to such groups have been detained in security sweeps in recent weeks.
Concerns about security have grown in Turkey since November, when four suicide truck bombings killed more than 60 people in attacks on two synagogues, the British consulate and a London-based bank. Prosecutors say a Turkish al-Qaida-linked cell carried out those attacks.
Turkish security forces are using concrete barriers to seal off a zone in the heart of Istanbul and surveillance aircraft are being prepared to help monitor a no-fly zone over the area where the NATO meeting is being held.
The Bosporus will also be closed to oil traffic ahead of the summit.
© The Canadian Press 2004



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