Last updated: 21 August, 2012

Eight killed and several wounded in south-east Turkey blast

A car bomb exploded Monday, killing eight people and wounding 50 others in a city in south-east Turkey, the mayor of Gaziantap, Asim Guezelbey, told local television.

The powerful blast went off close to a police station, setting fire to several vehicles including a city bus carrying three of the victims, the mayor told NTV news channel which broadcast images of firefighters racing to put out the flames.

No one has claimed responsibility for the explosion which occurred on the second day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of Ramadan, the holy Muslim month of fasting.

But it came amid intensified clashes between the Kurdish rebels and Turkish troops in the volatile south-east region.

Gaziantap, a main city in the region, has so far been spared the violence wrought by rebels from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) since they began their battle for autonomy in the Kurdish-majority south-east in 1984.

In a separate incident Monday in the south-east province of Hakkari bordering Iraq and Iran, two soldiers were killed when a landmine detonated through remote control by PKK rebels blew up, authorities said.

The conflict with the PKK, which is considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey and much of the international community, has claimed some 45,000 lives over nearly three decades.

Ankara launched an all-out offensive last month against the PKK after a series of assaults against troops in the south-east. At least 115 rebels have been killed since the offensive began on July 23, Turkish authorities said.

But the rebel activity appeared to have only intensified.

Earlier this month, Kurdish rebels stormed a Turkish army post on the Iraq border, triggering fighting that killed 22 people.

Also earlier this month, the PKK abducted an ethnic Kurd lawmaker — later freed — in the southeastern city of Tunceli, marking the first time they kidnapped a member of the Turkish parliament since 1984.

The incident followed the abduction of three soldiers in another part of the region.

Kurdish rebels frequently kidnap workers, soldiers and local authorities to bargain for the release of captured rebels, and free most hostages without harm.

Turkey also regularly bombs suspected Kurdish rebel hideouts in northern Iraq, with both Baghdad and the government in the autonomous Kurdish region forced to accept the military strikes.