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Militant Kurds Blamed for Deadly Bomb Attack in Turkey - 2004-07-02

At least six people died when a powerful bomb went off in Turkey's eastern city of Van. The attack targeted the predominantly Kurdish province's state appointed governor and is being blamed on Kurdish militants.

The remote-controlled device, placed in a truck on Van's main street, ripped holes in the car carrying the governor, as he made his way to work. The governor survived the attack, but at least six people, most of them pedestrians, died, and over 20 others were injured in the blast that shattered windows in surrounding buildings.

Turkish police said the attack was likely carried out by members of the outlawed separatist Kurdish rebel group, known as the PKK.

The rebels, who recently renamed themselves Kongra Gel, announced last month they had called off a five-year unilateral cease-fire because of the government's refusal to negotiate a peace deal with them. Hundreds of Kongra Gel militants have been crossing into Turkey from their mountain bases in Kurdish controlled northern Iraq, and clashes between security forces and the rebels have resumed in recent weeks.

Turkey's ruling Justice and Development party has approved a series of measures over the past year in response to the Kurds' demands for greater rights. State-run television launched its first ever Kurdish language broadcasts last month. Private language courses, where the long-banned language of Turkey's 12 million Kurds is taught, have opened their doors in several predominantly Kurdish provinces, including Van.

Some analysts say the rebels' decision to resume their campaign of violence, just as Turkey takes such positive steps, is hurting their popularity among ordinary Kurds. Several Kurdish leaders, including Leyla Zana, one of four Kurdish members of parliament who were released from prison last month in line with reforms aimed at securing Turkey's eventual membership in the European Union, were among the first to denounce Friday's attack. The Kurdish politicians said in a joint statement, "We strongly condemn this attack, regardless of who carried it out."