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Bombs Target Turkish Police, Kill 38 in Istanbul; Day of Mourning Declared

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Turkish police officers carry a coffin of a fellow officer during a ceremony for police officers killed in Saturday's blasts in Istanbul, Dec. 11, 2016.

Turkish police officers carry a coffin of a fellow officer during a ceremony for police officers killed in Saturday's blasts in Istanbul, Dec. 11, 2016.

A Kurdish militant group has claimed responsibility for the bombings that killed at least 38 people and wounded more than 150 others in the Turkish city of Istanbul..

The claim was made Sunday by the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons, or TAK, a group seen as an offshoot of the outlawed PKK

The blasts rocked a huge football stadium late Saturday. Witnesses and authorities said the attacks - a car bombing and a suicide blast - targeted security officers two hours after a football (soccer) match ended.

Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said 30 police officers were among those killed.

Authorities say the blasts targeted a bus carrying riot police from the Besiktas Vodafone Arena on the shore of the Bosporus.

Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said initially that that the outlawed PKK was likely at fault and that said 13 people have been arrested so far in connection with the bombings.

////Turkey has declared a national day of mourning, one day after two explosions in Istanbul killed at least 38 people and wounded many others.

The blasts rocked a huge football stadium late Saturday. Witnesses and authorities said the attacks — a car bombing and a suicide blast — targeted security officers two hours after a football (soccer) match ended.

Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said the explosions killed 38 people and wounded 166 others. He says 30 police officers were killed along with seven civilians and one unidentified person.

Authorities say the blasts targeted a bus carrying riot police from the Besiktas Vodafone Arena on the shore of the Bosporus.

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No claim of responsibility

There was no claim of responsibility for the attack, but Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus says it appears the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the PKK, is likely at fault. He said 13 people have been arrested so far in connection with the bombing.

Turkey’s government instituted a news blackout on details of the attack and its aftermath, citing national security and public order concerns.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has postponed a trip to Kazakhstan, said in a statement the attack targeted police and “aimed to maximize casualties.”

Police arrive at the site of an explosion in central Istanbul, Turkey, December 10, 2016.

Police arrive at the site of an explosion in central Istanbul, Turkey, December 10, 2016.

The presidential statement described the bombings as an act of terrorism and said “as a result of these attacks unfortunately we have martyrs and wounded.”

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has ordered flags to be flown at half-staff.
U.S. National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said in a statement, "The United States condemns in the strongest terms the terrorist attack," which he said "appears to have targeted police forces."

The United Nations also issued a statement, saying Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon "hopes that the perpetrators of this terrorist act will be swiftly identified and brought to justice."

Turkish policemen at the site of an explosion in central Istanbul, Turkey, December 10, 2016.

Turkish policemen at the site of an explosion in central Istanbul, Turkey, December 10, 2016.

A VOA reporter in Istanbul, Dorian Jones, said the nature of the attack — targeting police after the match ended, rather than masses of spectators — suggested it might have been staged by outlawed Kurdish militants. Both Jones and NTV later said police also had detonated a suspicious package outside the stadium following the earlier blasts.

Turkey's most visible militant group, the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, has for decades battled the Turkish government for an autonomous homeland in Turkey's southeast.

The PKK is widely known for periodic attacks on Turkish security forces. But unlike the Islamic State group, which routinely targets civilians, the Kurdish militants are equally known for avoiding attacks on Turkey's civilian population.

Istanbul has been the scene of several bombings this year, including a June attack at Atatürk Airport that killed more than 40 people. More than 200 people have died this year throughout the country in attacks blamed on Islamic State militants or Kurdish factions inside Turkey.

Islamic State was also blamed for an August 20 bombing at a wedding party in the south-central Turkish city of Gaziantep, near the Syrian border. More than 50 people were killed in that attack and scores of others were wounded.

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