Turkey thwarts resort bombing by Kurdish rebels

By SELCAN HACAOGLU | September 23, 2011 | 10:20 AM EDT

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Paramilitary police on Friday defused a powerful bomb believed to be planted by Kurdish rebels on a bridge in the country's southeast, averting a possible attack in a resort town popular with foreign tourists.

The reported attack came a day after police detained a would-be Kurdish rebel bomber.

Kurdish rebels have dramatically stepped up attacks in Turkey. Friday's thwarted attack stoked more fears a day after a Kurdish militant group, the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons, claimed responsibility for a car bomb attack near a school in the Turkish capital of Ankara that killed three people and wounded 34 this week.

The paramilitary police, acting on a tip, discovered 125 kilograms (275 pounds) of booby-trapped explosives planted on a highway bridge between the cities of Bingol and Elazig. The explosives, containing ammonium nitrate and C-4 plastic explosives, were stashed in four large gas canisters as well as a pressure cooker, the governor's office in Bingol said.

The foiled attack came a day after anti-terror squads captured a suspected bomber in a raid in the western holiday town of Bodrum, seizing 2.1 kilograms (4.6 pounds) of plastic explosives, the Hurriyet newspaper reported, citing unnamed police sources. The suspect was believed to be behind a small bomb attack in the Mediterranean resort town of Kemer that wounded 10 people, including four Swedes on Aug. 28, according to Hurriyet.

Police refused to comment on the alleged arrest.

The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons, which also claimed the bombing in Kemer, had vowed more assaults in retaliation for what it called Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government's "war" against the rebels, according to pro-Kurdish Firat news agency.

The group's warning came as it claimed credit for Tuesday's bombing in Ankara. Police on Friday distributed CCTV camera images of the suspected bomber, a young man wearing a baseball cap, to the media.

Kurdish rebels have been fighting for autonomy in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast since 1984. They have stepped up attacks on security forces in recent months, who have retaliated with airstrikes in the rebels' suspected bases in northern Iraq.

In a nationwide crackdown on alleged Kurdish rebel sympathizers, police on Friday detained the mayors of the towns of Sirnak, Silopi and Idil in the Kurdish-dominated southeast, increasing the number of Kurdish suspects captured so far this week to more than 80, NTV television reported.