DIYARBAKIR, Turkey, (Reuters) – The death toll from a bomb explosion in southeast Turkey’s largest city has risen to five, including three children, and the number of injured stands at 110, security sources said on Friday.
Eight of the injured are in a serious condition and the death toll could increase further, they said.
The bomb, which exploded in the centre of Diyarbakir on Thursday evening, targeted a military service vehicle that had been carrying 46 army personnel as it passed near a school. The bomb was set off by remote control.
Nobody has claimed responsibility for the blast but authorities have blamed militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), whom Turkish security forces are battling both in Turkey and in nearby northern Iraq.
State prosecutors have granted security forces “unlimited search” powers for 16 days, enabling them to search homes, offices and vehicles in Diyarbakir, a mainly Kurdish city of 1 million people, without seeking prior permission.
The state Anatolian news agency quoted prosecutors as saying four people had been detained in connection with the blast. Earlier, security sources said 12 people had been detained. “This (bombing) is an attack against our people, especially our people in the southeast, in Diyarbakir. The terrorist organisation has never been the representative of our Kurdish citizens,” Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said in Ankara.
Erdogan also told reporters he would visit Diyarbakir on Saturday. General Yasar Buyukanit, head of Turkey’s powerful military General Staff, was due to visit the city on Friday.
CNN Turk said some 80 kg (176 lb) of explosives were used in the attack.
In the eastern province of Van, near the Iranian border, police seized a minibus loaded with more than 50 kg (110 lb) of explosives in the early hours of Friday, Anatolian reported. “The explosives which have been seized had the power to cause an explosion three times the size of the one used in the attack in Diyarbakir,” Van Governor Ozdemir Cakacak told reporters.
Nobody has been detained in connection with the haul, he said.
The blast has reinforced the pressure on Turkey’s politicians and generals to keep up an aerial bombardment campaign against PKK positions in mountainous northern Iraq.
Ankara blames the PKK for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people since the group launched its armed campaign for an ethnic homeland in southeast Turkey in 1984.
The United States and the European Union, like Turkey, classify the PKK as a terrorist organisation. The U.S. military is sharing intelligence with Turkey to help combat the PKK.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul is scheduled to discuss the PKK and northern Iraq during talks next week in Washington with U.S. President George W. Bush.