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Powerful blasts kill at least 27 in Istanbul

British Consul General among the dead

Thursday, November 20, 2003 Posted: 1:09 PM EST (1809 GMT)

The blast outside the HSBC bank building in Istanbul on Thursday ripped off the structure's facade.
The blast outside the HSBC bank building in Istanbul on Thursday ripped off the structure's facade.

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Istanbul resident Chris Kintrinos describes the chaos after the blasts.
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British Foreign Minister Jack Straw says the bombings look like the work of al Qaeda.
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CNN Analyst M.J. Gohel calls the blasts a wake-up call to Islamic nations.
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Bush: Terrorists' 'hope to intimidate and demoralize.'
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Blair: 'No holding back' in 'confronting this menace.'
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ISTANBUL, Turkey (CNN) -- Powerful explosions ripped through the British Consulate and a London-based bank near a popular shopping area in Istanbul Thursday -- killing at least 27 people and wounding more than 450 others, Turkish officials said.

Seventeen people were killed at the consulate and 10 in the shopping area in the neighborhood of Levent, the Turkish Interior Ministry said.

Consul General Roger Short was among those killed, said Ian Sherwood, chaplain of the British Consulate. One of the main buildings was "completely demolished," he said.

It was the second coordinated attack in Istanbul in the last week. On Saturday, 25 people were killed in car bombings of two synagogues. (Full story)

Video from the scene of Thursday's attacks showed shattered windows along the narrow streets near the consulate and some areas reduced rubble. People could be seen trying to remove debris by hand from around buried cars and rescuers with search dogs were searching for survivors.

Another blast, outside an HBSC bank, ripped the facade off the tall building. Video of a nearby shopping mall showed chaos with people streaming out of the area, some with bloody faces and blood-soaked clothes. Shattered glass and burned vehicles littered the street. (Full story)

Sherwood said the consulate had been "secure as possible," but that the bombing was "huge." He said his house down the street shook, and the whole neighborhood was damaged.

Turkish officials said that bombing, in the Levent neighborhood, occurred shortly before 11 a.m. (4 a.m. ET).

Witnesses said they thought suicide attackers used explosive-packed vehicles.

A spokesman for Britain's HBSC bank said two of the bank's buildings were struck.

"They seem to be organized international terrorism," Turkish Foreign Ministry Spokesman Huseyin Dirioz said following Thursday's attacks. Dirioz said his government will "fight against all sorts of international terrorists."

Al Qaeda, Turkish group claim responsibility

Interior Minister Abdulkadir Aksu told reporters there were similarities between Thursday's attacks and Saturday's car bombings of the two synagogues. "Probably some trucks were used in carrying explosives" Thursday, Aksu said.

Local officials said the attacks seem to have been substantially larger than Saturday's.

Shortly after Thursday's bombings, a government office in Istanbul received a phone call claiming to be from al Qaeda and a Turkish Islamic militant group --the Great Eastern Islamic Raiders' Front (IBDA-C) -- claiming joint responsibility, CNN Turk reported. (Expert: Al Qaeda to blame)

IBDA-C also claimed responsibility for Saturday's synagogue bombings, which killed 23 people in addition to two suicide bombers. But Turkish officials said the synagogue attacks were carried out by two Turkish nationals linked to a group in Afghanistan which may have ties to al Qaeda.

An injured woman is carried away from the British Consulate blast site in Istanbul on Thursday.
An injured woman is carried away from the British Consulate blast site in Istanbul on Thursday.

Aksu warned against speculation on which group is responsible for the attacks, saying that could hamper the investigation. (Full story)

Speaking in London, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw called the attacks "appalling acts of terrorism" which have "all the hallmarks" of an al Qaeda attack.

U.S. officials said Thursday they have seen multiple claims of responsibility for the attacks. "Al Qaeda is always a good guess though," said a senior official, "based on the targets, the modus operandi and so on."

President Bush was in London on a state visit. He and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, at a joint news conference, condemned the blasts and vowed to defeat terrorism.

"Cruelty is part of their strategy. The terrorists hope to intimidate. They hope to demoralize," said Bush. "They're not going to succeed. Great Britain, America and other free nations are united today in our grief and united in our determination to fight and defeat this evil wherever it is found."

Said Blair, "We must affirm that in the face of this terrorism there must be no holding back, no compromise, no hesitation in confronting this menace, in attacking it wherever and whenever we can, and in defeating it utterly." (Full story)

A White House spokesman said Washington is monitoring the situation.

Straw told the House of Commons that the country is taking measures to step up security at facilities at home and abroad.

Aksu said Turkey was banning media coverage at the sites "to investigate the incident more properly." It was not clear how much coverage would be curtailed.

The United States and Britain warned their citizens to proceed cautiously in Istanbul after the attacks. (Full story)


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