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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Kurdish rebels warn of "hell" after Turkey blasts

ANTALYA, Turkey (Reuters) - A shadowy Kurdish rebel group threatened on Tuesday to turn Turkey into "hell" after a two-day bombing spree which killed three people and wounded dozens of others at popular tourist resorts.

The Kurdish Liberation Hawks (TAK) said it bombed a busy shopping area in the coastal resort Antalya on Monday, killing three people and wounding dozens, including European and Middle Eastern tourists.

The blast followed four bombs in the Mediterranean resort of Marmaris and in Istanbul that wounded 27 people.

"We vow to turn the monstrous TC (Turkish Republic) into hell ... with our warriors who have pledged revenge," TAK said in a statement on its Web site. It was not immediately possible to verify its authenticity.

TAK and the larger outlawed hard-line separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) oppose Ankara's policies on the Kurdish region. The PKK, which TAK says it broke with 18 months ago, took up arms in 1984 with the aim of creating a homeland in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast.

More than 30,000 people have since been killed in the separatist conflict.

TAK says tourism has helped feed the state, and warns visitors to stay away from European Union-aspirant Turkey.

Security has been stepped up at key tourist destinations, and although no major cancellations to Turkey have been reported some tourists and those in the sector were concerned.

Police have launched a hunt for two people suspected of planting the bomb in Antalya, Milliyet newspaper said on Tuesday, although police did not confirm the report.

The government has remained silent and Turkish media have largely ignored the attacks.

Turkish financial markets were unfazed by the bombings.

Eleven people were still being treated in hospital for their injuries, said police spokesman Akif Aktug. None of them were in a critical condition.

Police detained a PKK suspect in the port city of Izmir on Monday. TV footage showed him being led away by police and plastic explosives found in his possession. He was believed to have been planning an attack.


TAK has claimed a series of deadly attacks over the last year in tourist resorts and cities across the country. PKK guerrillas mainly carry out attacks against soldiers in the mountains of southeast Turkey from their bases in northern Iraq.

Turkey has repeatedly called on the United States and Iraq to clamp down on the PKK inside Iraq.

Tourism is worth an annual $18 billion to Turkey and has already been hit by other bombings and a bird flu outbreak.

"It's hard to judge whether we will stay. We'll have to see how it turns out. Terror in the world is growing and you feel so small, but there's nothing you can do," said Helen Schneider from Germany holidaying with her family.

The Firat News Agency, which has close ties to Kurdish rebels, said the PKK had condemned the bombings. The PKK is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S., EU and Turkey.

Turkey has improved rights for Kurds, but the EU wants more.

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