ANKARA, Turkey, (AP) – Authorities thwarted a bombing, possibly timed to coincide with the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, as police found and defused more than 600 pounds of explosives Tuesday in a minibus parked near an Ankara market.
Turkey, a U.S. ally in the fight against global terrorism, has increased security on the anniversary of the 2001 attacks in the United States.
Sniffer dogs discovered the blue minibus at a multistory parking garage near an open food market. Its license plate was stolen from another vehicle, and the owner tipped police, the state-run Anatolia news agency said.
“A possible disaster has been prevented,” Gov. Kemal Onal said as he announced the discovery at the site. Anatolia said a witness alleged that an unidentified man parked the vehicle around 6 a.m., saying he had brought goods to sell at the market.
Police evacuated houses and cordoned off the area, and explosive experts defused the bomb in three hours, Police Chief Ercument Yilmaz said.
“Ankara’s Sept. 11 has been prevented,” private NTV television said on its Web site.
Yilmaz did not reveal details of the bomb, but Turkish media citing other police sources said sacks of explosives were found, speculating that it could be ammonium nitrate or cheap fertilizer, an ingredient used to make bombs.
Suicide bombers linked to al-Qaeda hit Istanbul in 2003 with truck bombs — containing ammonium nitrate-based bombs — killing 58 people in attacks that targeted two synagogues, the British Consulate and a British bank. In February, a court sentenced seven people to life in prison for the bombings.
Turkey, a predominantly Muslim but secular country is a key NATO ally that provides vital support to U.S. operations in Afghanistan and Iraq through Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey, one of the most important U.S. military assets in the region.
A suicide bombing in one of Ankara’s busiest markets in May killed six people and wounded dozens more. The bombing was blamed on the separatist Kurdish group Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, but the group denied involvement.
The rebel group seeks autonomy for Turkey’s Kurds, and tens of thousands of people have been killed during its fight against government forces since 1984.