As bombing death toll jumps to 38, Turkey blames Kurds

No claims of responsibility for twin blasts in Istanbul; day of mourning declared, with flags lowered to half-staff

Forensic officials work at the scene of explosions near the Besiktas football club stadium after attacks in Istanbul, December 10, 2016. (AP)
Forensic officials work at the scene of explosions near the Besiktas football club stadium after attacks in Istanbul, December 10, 2016. (AP)

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said Sunday that a double bombing attack the night before that killed scores in Istanbul appeared to have been carried out by Kurdish militants.

Shortly after he made his statement, the death toll in the attack was raised to 38.

Kurtulmus told the private news channel CNN Turk that “arrows point to the PKK.”

He was referring to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which has waged a decades-long insurgency.

Turkey has declared a national day of mourning over the twin blasts, which took place near a soccer stadium and also wounded 166.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

A Sunday statement from Prime Minister Binali Yildirim’s office also ordered flags to fly at half-staff across the country and at Turkey’s foreign missions.

The two attacks Saturday night by a car bomber and a suicide bomber near Besiktas soccer stadium were the latest large-scale assault to traumatize a nation confronting an array of security threats.

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency said 19 of the 166 wounded were in intensive care.

Turkey’s pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party, or HDP, condemned the attack.

The party’s central executive committee released a statement on Sunday “strongly condemning” the attacks and saying it “felt great sadness and shared in the sorrow.”

The statement added: “In both domestic and foreign policy, Turkey must be a model and more importantly a political actor of peace, democracy and human rights. It is essential that the politics, language, tone and practices that cause tension, polarization, enmity and clashes immediately cease.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also condemned the attacks in Turkey, while calling on the Ankara government to do the same for attacks in Israel.

“I condemn all terror in Turkey and expect that Turkey will condemn all attack in Israel,” he said at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. “The campaign against terror demands mutual condemnation and mutual eradication, and that is the expectation of Israel from all the countries with which we are in contact.”

The prime minister noted that a new Turkish ambassador, Kemal Okem, had arrived in Israel on Saturday night, the same evening as the Istanbul attacks. Having renewed diplomatic relations after a five-year split, Israel and Turkey recently appointed ambassadors to each other’s country. Eitan Na’eh, Israel’s newly reinstated ambassador to Turkey, took up his post last week.

President Reuven Rivlin said in a statement, “We condemn terror in every place — Istanbul, Jerusalem, Paris, or Brussels.”

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