Death toll in Istanbul bombing rises to 16 - agency

Mon Jul 28, 2008 1:55am EDT

ISTANBUL, July 28 (Reuters) - The death toll in a bombing in Istanbul rose to 16 on Monday while around 150 were wounded, state-run Anatolian news agency reported, in an attack hours ahead of a court case over banning the governing party.

"We know the killers," Sabah newspaper said in a headline above a picture of bodies strewn across a busy pedestrian area where two bombs had torn through the crowds.

No one has claimed responsibility for the blasts, the deadliest attacks in Istanbul since 2003. Newspapers said three people had been detained in connection with the bombing.

Several newspapers said police were focusing their investigations on the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerrilla group, saying it had used similar explosives in the past.

Officials said a loud blast brought people into the streets and a larger bomb hidden in a rubbish bin exploded 10 minutes and 50 metres away in Gungoren district, near the main airport, where families gather in the evenings to dine and stroll.

"We now have sixteen citizens who have passed away," Anatolian reported Health Minister Recep Akdag as saying.

Forensic teams examined the scene of the blasts and police were investigating the security cameras in the area.

Kurdish separatists, far-left groups and Islamists have all carried out bombings in Istanbul in the past.

Turkey, which is seeking European Union membership, has been plunged into political and economic uncertainty by a court case over banning the ruling party that begins on Monday.

The Constitutional Court, Turkey's highest judicial body, will begin deliberating on Monday on whether the AK Party has engaged in Islamist activities and should be closed. The party denies the charges. A ruling is expected in early August.

Tensions have also risen in recent weeks over a widening police investigation into a suspected ultra-nationalist group accused of seeking to overthrow the AK Party government. (Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Dominic Evans)