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Istanbul Hit by Deadly Bombings

On Sunday night at least 17 people were killed and over 150 injured in two deadly bombings in Turkey's largest city Istanbul. The attacks took place in a residential district of western Istanbul. The bombings occurred as Turkey is in the midst of a political crisis involving the the ruling AKP Party. Dorian Jones reports for VOA from Istanbul.

The attack started around 10:00 p.m. local time, when a small explosion occurred in the Gungoren district of Istanbul. The area was packed with people taking a traditional late evening walk after a hot summer day. The explosion saw people rush to help the injured. According to eyewitnesses there was then a second much more powerful explosion causing death and destruction on a massive scale, as one witness

"I saw lots of dead people , and lots of injured people , that was terrible," said the witness. "I can't say anything just bodies all around and injured people. that was terrible."

Local hospitals were overwhelmed with the casualties and an urgent appeal has been put out for blood donors. Many of those injured are in critical condition. Turkey's President Abdullah Gul condemned the attack saying no goals can be achieved by terrorism and these attacks show how inhumane the instigators are.

According to local TV reports, quoting security officers, the bombings have the hallmark of the Kurdish separatist group the PKK. The same source also said security forces had been bracing themselves for a bombing campaign by the separatists. Two years ago a splinter group of the PKK known as the Kurdistan freedom falcons or Tak was responsible for a series of fatal bombings in Istanbul and some of Turkey's main tourist resorts.

The PKK, which has been fighting the Turkish state for Kurdish autonomy in the southeast for more than 20 years, has been under intense pressure in the last few months from the Turkish army. On Sunday Turkish jets struck numerous rebel targets in northern Iraq. Dozens of rebels have also been killed in Turkey in recent weeks.

But the PKK is not the only group under suspicion, radical Islamic and far left organizations have also carried out bombings in recent years. The Minister of Interior Besir Atalay, speaking at the scene, said the government wouldn't bow to terrorism.

"We have lost many of our citizens today but our fight against this merciless terrorism will continue," he said. "No one can intimidate us. We are determined to bring all those responsible to justice."

Security forces are now under intense pressure to find the bombers. The attacks will inevitably fuel rising political tensions in the country. Turkey's constitutional court on Monday starts deliberating a case calling for the closure of the ruling, Islamic-rooted, Justice and Development Party or AKP. The party is accused of undermining the secular state. A verdict is expected in three to 10 days.