Kurdish rebels deny any role in attack

AP News
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Posted: Nov 01, 2010 10:15 AM
Kurdish rebels deny any role in attack

Kurdish rebels on Monday denied any involvement in the suicide bombing in a crowded Istanbul square that wounded 32 people _ half of them police _ and announced the extension of a unilateral cease fire in hope of opening talks with Turkish leaders.

Interior Minister Besir Atalay said the government has information about the alleged group behind Sunday's bombing but will not comment about that until the investigation is complete. The suicide bomber, who has not been identified, blew himself up near riot police stationed at Taksim square, a popular location in central Istanbul for shoppers, tourists and demonstrators.

Kurdish rebels, Islamic militants and leftist extremists have all carried out attacks in Turkey. But Sunday's bombing coincided with the end of the rebels' previous cease fire, leading to suspicions that the autonomy-seeking Kurdistan Workers Party, known by its Kurdish acronym PKK, may have been behind the attack.

The PKK is considered a terrorist group by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union. The group has been fighting for autonomy in southeastern Turkey in a conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people since 1984.

However, the rebels rejected suggestions that the PKK or one of its offshoots carried out the attack in Istanbul and said the group is extending the unilateral cease fire until Turkey holds general elections in the summer of 2011.

"It is not possible for us to organize such an action at a time when we are preparing to take historic steps toward peace and a democratic solution," the PKK leadership said in an statement.

The PKK began the earlier cease fire in mid-August to mark the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and later extended it until Sunday.

"It is not possible for us nor for any units attached to us to carry out or plan such an action," the rebels said.

However, some rebel cells in Turkish cities are believed to operate with considerable autonomy from their leadership, whose camps at Qandil mountain in northern Iraq, which borders Turkey, have periodically been bombed by the Turkish air force.

The PKK statement also said: "Our movement has deemed the fact that a peaceful solution is being discussed and that certain circles within the state are warm toward a dialogue, as a positive development. Our leadership has decided to extend the period of non-activity to encourage and give strength to this approach."

Turkey has recently taken steps to improve the rights of Kurds, who make up 20 percent of Turkey's population, including allowing Kurdish-language television broadcasts. The government also has increased contacts with the Kurds as part of a campaign to end the conflict, though it maintains an official policy of not talking to the rebel group.

On Monday, a senior government lawmaker, Omer Celik, dismissed the extension of the rebel cease fire, saying "the government will not alter its course in the struggle against terrorism based on decisions taken by the (rebel) organization."

"However, if it means that less people will be killed, then it is good in that sense," Celik told private NTV television, adding that the government was "sincerely" seeking a peaceful end to the conflict.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday that some European countries were not doing enough to help it fight terrorism. He did not name the countries, but Turkish officials have said the PKK raises funds through extortion or other criminal activities in European countries such as Germany that have a large number of Kurdish immigrants.

"We now want concrete steps, concrete results," Erdogan said. "Even today, in certain European countries, organizations with known ties to the terrorist organization freely operate under the guise of associations, foundations, or the media."

"Despite all our requests, all our warnings, all the documents we hand over to them, certain countries do not refrain from giving direct or indirect support to terrorism," Erdogan said.

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Associated Press Writer Selcan Hacaoglu in Ankara contributed to this report.