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Kurdish Militant Group Claims Responsibility for Deadly Istanbul Bombing
A Kurdish militant group claimed responsibility on Sunday for a double bombing that killed 39 people and wounded 154 outside a soccer stadium in the heart of Istanbul the night before.
The group — Kurdistan Freedom Falcons — said in a statement that two of its members had carried out the suicide attacks in retaliation for state violence in the predominantly Kurdish region in southeast Turkey. The group also cited the continuing imprisonment of Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or P.K.K., which has waged a three-decade insurgency against the Turkish state.
The Kurdish Freedom Falcons, which claimed responsibility in June for a car bombing in Istanbul that killed at least 11 people, is considered an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers' Party.
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim had blamed the P.K.K. for the twin bombings on Saturday night.
Turkish officials said the two suicide attacks were carried out near the Vodafone Arena stadium. One of them involved the detonation of nearly 1,000 pounds of explosives in a vehicle, and the other was carried out by a suicide bomber who targeted police officers after a soccer game.
At least 30 police officers, eight civilians and one unidentified person were killed in the attacks, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said during a funeral for one of the victims on Sunday.
The government declared a national day of mourning on Sunday, and top Turkish officials, including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, attended funeral services held at Istanbul's Police Headquarters.
"They should know that they would not get away with this; they will pay heavier prices," Mr. Erdogan said after visiting the wounded at an Istanbul hospital. "They attacked vilely, perfidiously at two spots against those young lions, who were preparing to get on their buses."
So far, the authorities have detained 13 people in connection with the attacks, the Istanbul chief prosecutor's office said.
Violence has surged in southeastern Turkey and spilled over to western cities since the government started a counterinsurgency campaign against the P.K.K. after the group ended a two-year cease-fire in July 2015.
Turkey has been hit by a string of terrorist attacks this year that officials have attributed to Kurdish militants and the Islamic State. And the government's crackdown and consolidation of power after an attempted coup over the summer have further set the country on edge.
On Sunday, video footage published by the local news media appeared to show one of the suicide bombers in the attacks on Saturday walking along a road when several police officers stopped him just before he detonated his explosives.
"All terror organizations are attacking our nation and our people for the same goal," Mr. Erdogan said in a statement after the attacks. "Whenever Turkey takes a positive step with regards to its future, a response comes immediately before us in the form of blood, lives, savagery and chaos at the hands of terrorist organizations."
[Source: By Safak Timur, The New York Times, Istanbul, 11Dec16]
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