Bomb Blasts Strike Neighborhood In Turkey

A pair of bombs ripped through a residential neighborhood in Istanbul on Sunday. More than a dozen people were killed and scores were injured. NPR's Ivan Watson talks to host Andrea Seabrook about the attack.

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ANDREA SEABROOK, host:

In Turkey today, a pair of bombs ripped through a residential neighborhood of Istanbul. More than a dozen people were killed and scores injured. NPR's Ivan Watson is on the line now from Istanbul. Ivan, what do you know about these explosions?

IVAN WATSON: Andrea, this is the most serious bomb attack to take place in Istanbul in years. As you said, scores of people were killed and injured. The first bomb went off around 9:45 in a congested, pedestrian area full of shops and outdoor cafes.

The governor of the city has just come out and announced that innocent people were the target of that attack. He said the bomb was - the first bomb, they were plastic explosives placed in garbage cans, and then when a crowd gathered to treat the wounded, there was a second explosion that went off minutes later.

SEABROOK: I'm reading some quotes here of what the governor said. He said there is no doubt that this is a terror attack?

WATSON: Exactly, and we don't really know who could've been behind this, of course. The authorities say they are going through the security video cameras in the area. There's already been speculation in the Turkish media, Andrea, and I stress the word speculation, that this could have been a revenge attack by Kurdish separatist rebels known as the PKK.

They have increased clashes with the Turkish military in southeastern Turkey in recent weeks, and the Turkish military carried out two waves of air strikes across the border into Iraq, one before dawn this morning, another on Wednesday, against suspected PKK targets, but that's speculation.

We're also in the middle of an intense power struggle here that has raised tension in Turkey and polarized society. Tomorrow, judges from the constitutional court are to begin the final round of discussions to decide whether or not to ban the Turkish government, the ruling political party, on charges that it is trying to undermine the secular republic here, and Andrea, there's a second investigation underway, accusing scores of people, including several retired army generals, of a coup plot to overthrow the government.

So you have a power struggle underway and then this attack going on. It's certainly going to alarm Turkish society and trigger all sorts of conspiracy theories.

SEABROOK: Okay, NPR will stay on this story. NPR's Ivan Watson in Istanbul, thanks very much for joining us.

WATSON: You're welcome, Andrea.

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SEABROOK: In a few minutes, computer gaming comes out of the upstairs bedroom and into the arena. It's NPR News.

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