NEWS

Turkey Car Bomb Kills At Least 34 In Ankara Near Main Square

03/13/2016 03:06 EDT | Updated 03/14/2016 09:59 EDT

ANKARA, Turkey — A suicide car bomb went off near bus stops in the heart of Turkey's capital on Sunday, killing at least 34 people and wounding around 125 others, officials said.

The blast occurred on the city's main boulevard, close to Ankara's main square and a park.

Health Minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu said 19 of the wounded were in serious condition. He said that 30 of the fatalities died at the scene, while the other four perished at hospitals. Two of the dead were believed to be the assailants, he added.

Interior Minister Efkan Ala said the attack, which came as Turkey prepared to launch large-scale military operations against Kurdish militants in two towns, wouldn't deter the country from its fight against terrorism. He confirmed the blast as a car bomb that targeted civilians at bus stops on Ataturk Bulvari close to Kizilay square.

Ala said authorities had obtained evidence pointing to the group behind the attack, but said an announcement would be made after the investigation is completed, most probably on Monday.

ankara turkey car bomb

An explosion ripped through a busy square in central Ankara on Sunday, killing at least 34 people and wounding 125 more, with local media reports describing it as an attack. Ambulances rushed to the scene of the explosion on Kizilay square, a key shopping and transport hub close to the city's embassy area. (Photo: Mehmet Ozer/AFP/Getty Images)

The private NTV news channel said several vehicles then caught fire following the blast which also shattered the windows of shops that line the boulevard and the square.

Dogan Asik, 28, said he was on a packed bus when the explosion occurred.

"There were about 40 people,'' said Asik, who sustained injuries on his face and arm. "It (the bus) slowed down. A car went by us, and 'boom' it exploded.''

"A car went by us, and 'boom' it exploded.''

Police sealed off the area and pushed onlookers and journalists back, warning there could be a second bomb. Forensic teams were examining the scene.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, although Kurdish militants and the Islamic State group have carried out bombings in the city recently. A far-left militant group is also active in Turkey.

Third explosion in five months

The bombing is the third in the city in five months and comes as Turkey is faced with an array of issues, including renewed fighting with the Kurdish rebels, threats from the Islamic State group and a Syrian refugee crisis.

It occurred just three weeks after a suicide car bombing in the capital targeted buses carrying military personnel, killing 29 people. A Kurdish militant group which is an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdish rebel group, the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, claimed responsibility for the Feb. 17 attack. The government, however, said that attack was carried out by a Syrian Kurdish militia group in concert with the PKK, which has waged a 30-year insurgency.

ankara turkey car bomb

Emergency workers are seen at the explosion site on Sunday in Ankara, Turkey. (Photo by Elif Sogut/Getty Images)

Sunday's attack also came two days after the U.S. Embassy issued a security warning about a potential plot to attack Turkish government buildings and housing in one Ankara neighbourhood and asked its citizens to avoid those areas.

As with the previous bombings, Turkish authorities quickly imposed a ban Sunday preventing media organizations from broadcasting or publishing graphic images of the blast or from the scene.

The country's pro-Kurdish party, the Peoples' Democratic Party, condemned the attack the attack and said it shares ``the huge pain felt along with our citizens.'' The statement was significant because the party is frequently accused of being the political arm of the PKK — an accusation it denies — and of not speaking out against PKK violence.

ankara turkey car bomb

Turkish riot police secure the scene after an explosion in Ankara's central Kizilay district on Sunday in Ankara, Turkey.(Photo by Defne Karadeniz/Getty Images)

Hundreds of people have been killed in Turkey in renewed fighting following the collapse of the peace process between the government and the PKK in July. Authorities on Sunday had declared curfews in two towns in the mainly Kurdish southeast region in anticipation of large-scale military operations against PKK-linked militants.

Turkey also has been struck by several bombings in the last year that were blamed on IS as the government joined efforts led by the U.S. to fight the extremist group in Syria. The deadliest came in October when a peace rally outside Ankara's main train station killed 102 people.

___

Burhan Ozbilici in Ankara contributed to this report.

___

This story has been corrected to show that the Peoples' Democratic Party has been accused of being the political arm of the PKK, not an armed wing.

Also on HuffPost

  • Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
    Smoke rises from a burning bus after military vehicles hit by Ankara blast close to government, at Merasim street on the intersection of Inonu Boulevard and Dikmen avenue in Turkey's capital Ankara on February 17, 2016.
  • ADEM ALTAN via Getty Images
    An injured person receives medical treatment by rescue workers following an explosion after an attack targeted a convoy of military service vehicles in Ankara on February 17, 2016.
  • Erhan Ortac via Getty Images
    A firefighter tries to put out a fire as Turkish army busses burn after an explosion on February 17, 2016 in Ankara, Turkey.
  • Erhan Ortac via Getty Images
    A firefighter tries to put out a fire as Turkish army busses burn after an explosion on February 17, 2016 in Ankara, Turkey.
  • AFP via Getty Images
    A man reacts next to policemen near the site of an explosion after an attack targeted a convoy of military service vehicles in Ankara on February 17, 2016.
  • STRINGER via Getty Images
    Smokes rises above buildings following an explosion after an attack targeted a convoy of military service vehicles in Ankara on February 17, 2016.
  • STRINGER via Getty Images
    A police officer gestures as he walks at the site of an explosion while firefighters try to extinguish flames after an attack targeted a convoy of military service vehicles in Ankara on February 17, 2016.
  • Defne Karadeniz via Getty Images
    Turkish police secure the blast site after an explosion on February 17, 2016 in Ankara, Turkey.
  • Defne Karadeniz via Getty Images
    Turkish army service busses burn after an explosion on February 17, 2016 in Ankara, Turkey.
  • Defne Karadeniz via Getty Images
    Ambulances pass the blast site after an explosion hit the Turkish army's service busses in Ankara, February 17, 2016 Turkey.
  • Defne Karadeniz via Getty Images
    Smoke billows from the blast site as Turkish army service busses burn after an explosion on February 17, 2016 in Ankara, Turkey.
  • Defne Karadeniz via Getty Images
    Turkish army service busses burn after an explosion on February 17, 2016 in Ankara, Turkey.
  • Defne Karadeniz via Getty Images
    Turkish army service busses burn after an explosion on February 17, 2016 in Ankara, Turkey.
  • Defne Karadeniz via Getty Images
    Turkish army service busses burn after an explosion on February 17, 2016 in Ankara, Turkey.
  • Defne Karadeniz via Getty Images
    A wounded man is carried to an ambulance after an explosion on February 17, 2016 in Ankara, Turkey.
  • CIHAN via Getty Images
    Emergency workers help an injured person on the ground near the site of an explosion after an attack targeted a convoy of military service vehicles in Ankara on February 17, 2016.
  • Defne Karadeniz via Getty Images
    Turkish army service busses burn after an explosion on February 17, 2016 in Ankara, Turkey.
  • Defne Karadeniz via Getty Images
    A wounded man is carried to an ambulance after an explosion on February 17, 2016 in Ankara, Turkey.
  • Defne Karadeniz via Getty Images
    People carry a wounded man as Turkish army service busses burn after an explosion on February 17, 2016 in Ankara, Turkey.
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Firefighters work at a scene of fire from an explosion in Ankara, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016.
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    People react at the scene of an explosion in Ankara, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016.
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Firefighters work at a scene of fire from an explosion in Ankara, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016.
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Smoke from a fire billow is seen following an explosion as police officers secure the area in Ankara, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016.
  • Turkey Explosion
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Firefighters work on a fire as police secure the area of an explosion in Ankara, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016, after assailants exploded a car bomb near vehicles carrying military personnel in the Turkish capital, killing several people and injuring scores of others, officials said. The explosion occurred during evening rush hour in the heart of city, in an area close to where military headquarters and the parliament are located. (Mustafa Kirazli/Cihan News Agency via AP) TURKEY OUT
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    A police officer clears the area of an explosion in Ankara, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016, after assailants exploded a car bomb near vehicles carrying military personnel in the Turkish capital.
  • Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
    Smoke rises from a burning bus after an explosion at Merasim street on the intersection of Inonu Boulevard and Dikmen avenue in Turkey's capital Ankara on February 17, 2016.
  • Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
    Smoke rises from a burning bus after military vehicles hit by Ankara blast close to government, at Merasim street on the intersection of Inonu Boulevard and Dikmen avenue in Turkey's capital Ankara on February 17, 2016.
  • Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
    Smoke rises from a burning bus after military vehicles hit by Ankara blast close to government, at Merasim street on the intersection of Inonu Boulevard and Dikmen avenue in Turkey's capital Ankara on February 17, 2016.
  • Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
    Injured people are taken to hospital after military vehicles hit by Ankara blast close to government, at Merasim street on the intersection of Inonu Boulevard and Dikmen avenue in Turkey's capital Ankara on February 17, 2016.
  • STRINGER via Getty Images
    Firefighters try to extinguish flames following an explosion after an attack targeted a convoy of military service vehicles in Ankara on February 17, 2016.
  • STRINGER via Getty Images
    Firefighters try to extinguish flames following an explosion after an attack targeted a convoy of military service vehicles in Ankara on February 17, 2016.
  • STRINGER via Getty Images
    Flames are seen following an explosion after an attack targeted a convoy of military service vehicles in Ankara on February 17, 2016.
  • STRINGER via Getty Images
    A fire engine stands at the site of an explosion after an attack targeted a convoy of military service vehicles in Ankara on February 17, 2016.
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Firefighters work at a scene of fire from an explosion in Ankara, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016.