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Three Killed by Bomb in Southeast Turkey


At least three people were killed and 19 others were injured after a bomb planted by suspected Kurdish rebels exploded in the city of Van in Turkey's predominantly Kurdish southeast region.

A police officer, a civilian and a suspected suicide bomber were killed in the blast that targeted a police vehicle as it drove past the local governor's office.

Turkish security officials say they believe the bomber had strapped the device to his body. Three of the injured are reported to be in critical condition.

The attack comes only days after rebels of the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party or PKK killed four police officers in the southeastern town of Batman. The rebels have stepped up attacks in recent months in a bid to pressure the government to sit down at the negotiating table. Turkey says it will not talk with terrorists.

The PKK, which launched its armed campaign initially for Kurdish independence, then autonomy, has been labeled a terrorist group by the European Union and the United States as well as the Turkish government. The rebels, whose leaders are based in Kurdish controlled northern Iraq are demanding that Turkey end the solitary confinement of their leader Abdullah Ocalan, who is being held in an island prison off the coast of Istanbul. They also want an amnesty that would cover all PKK members including their leaders.

In a separate development, Turkey's main Kurdish party, the Democratic People's Party on Monday called on the government to introduce instruction in the Kurdish language as part of the national curriculum. Bowing to pressure from the European Union, which it hopes to join, Turkey has eased restrictions on the Kurdish language. The language can now be taught at private language instruction schools. Both state and private radio and television stations can now broadcast in Kurdish for limited periods. The contents of the broadcasts are strictly censored.

Analysts warn the escalation in rebel violence may discourage the government from making further concessions to the Kurds amid mounting nationalist sentiment across the country.