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British Consul-General Killed in Istanbul Explosion - 2003-11-20

Britain says the explosions in Istanbul appear to be al-Qaida-style attacks that have claimed a number of British diplomats among the casualties. The attacks on the British Consulate and a branch of the British bank HSBC came during a state visit to Britain by President Bush.

Among the victims of the Istanbul bombings was the British Consul-General Roger Short. Survivors say he was killed instantly in the powerful blast. A number of other British diplomats are missing, and HSBC says several of its employees were killed.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was expected to arrive in Istanbul late Thursday to help deal with the crisis. He told parliament he suspects an Islamic terrorist group like al-Qaida perpetrated the blasts.

"Though it is too early to say who precisely was behind these explosions, they have every hallmark of the cowardly and indiscriminate acts of terrorism of al-Qaida and its associates," he said.

A foreign affairs spokesman for the opposition Conservative Party, Richard Spring, said Britons were targeted because of the country's strong support for the U.S.-led war on terrorism.

"We have taken a very robust view on terrorism, working of course with the Americans," said Richard Spring. "I do believe this is very clearly directed at ourselves and our interests."

The British prime minister, Tony Blair, told a joint news conference with President Bush that Britain will not back down despite some public pressure to do so.

"There may be some who think that Britain would gain from standing back from this struggle, even some who believe that we, the United States and our allies have brought this upon ourselves," said Tony Blair. "Let us be very clear. America did not attack al-Qaida on September 11th. Al-Qaida attacked America, and in doing so attacked not just America, but the way of life of all people who believe in tolerance and freedom, justice and peace."

Britain's Scotland Yard police force is sending anti-terrorist experts to Turkey to help work on the investigation. The Foreign Office has issued new advice to tourists, telling Britons to defer all but essential travel to Turkey.