November 4, 2010 / 11:37 AM / in 8 years

Kurdish TAK rebels say behind Istanbul bombing

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A group linked to Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerrillas claimed responsibility on Thursday for a suicide bomb attack in central Istanbul at the weekend.

A general view shows the scene of a suspected suicide bombing near police vehicles in central Istanbul's Taksim Square October 31, 2010. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

The Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK) said on its website it had staged the attack, which wounded 32 people near a police bus at Istanbul’s Taksim Square, as an “act of revenge.”

“We as TAK claim responsibility for the action carried out against the police force of Turkish fascism at Istanbul’s Taksim Square on Oct 31, 2010,” TAK said.

Authorities had named the suicide bomber on Tuesday, saying he came from a mainly Kurdish province and was a known member of a “separatist terrorist organization,” a term often used to describe the PKK. According to Turkish authorities, the bomber had received training in PKK camps in northern Iraq.

In a statement on Thursday, the PKK, which has called a ceasefire until Turkey’s next general elections in 2011, condemned TAK for the bombing and urged it to end its attacks. It also said all its members would stick by the ceasefire.

The PKK, which has waged a violent campaign for Kurdish autonomy in the southeast since 1984, said on Monday it had nothing to do with the attack in Taksim Square.

Media reports say Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party has been engaged in dialogue with people close to the PKK in hopes of ending a conflict which has killed 40,000 people.

Erdogan tried last year to expand Kurdish rights, though his initiative was undermined by a backlash sparked by images of the coffins of soldiers killed by the PKK.

The ceasefire is seen as giving Erdogan breathing space to re-address the Kurdish question after the election, and some commentators have said both the government and the PKK have tried to minimize damage from Sunday’s attack.

TAK has claimed responsibility for attacks in urban centers in the past, including the bombing of a military bus in Istanbul in June that killed five people.

Security analysts say the PKK trains and retains loose control over TAK and other Kurdish militant groups.

Reporting by Ayla Jean Yackley; editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Jon Hemming

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