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Blast Rocks Turkish Capital, Killing at Least 34


Members of emergency services work at the scene of an explosion in Ankara, Turkey, Sunday, March 13, 2016. (Yazicioglu/VOA Turkish Service)

A large explosion ripped through the main square in Turkey's capital, Ankara, Sunday, killing at least 34 people.

Turkish Health Minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu said 125 people were being treated at various hospitals in Ankara. Nineteen of them were in a critical condition.

"Thirty people were killed on the spot and four others died in hospital," Muezzinoglu said.

Emergency services were quickly on the scene to help the dozens of wounded. The area was reportedly very crowded, with the numbers swelled by teenagers who had taken part in the national university entrance exam.

Turkey's Interior Minister Efkan Ala says the bomber detonated his explosive between buses to cause the maximum number of deaths. He says they are investigating who is behind this terrorist attack and might be able to give details Monday.

Blast Rocks Turkish Capital, Killing Dozens
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The blast occurred near Kizilay square, a key shopping and transportation hub near foreign embassies and government buildings.

Ala said the blast was caused by a car bomb that targeted civilians at a bus stop. Cars nearby caught fire and television footage showed several gutted vehicles.

The attack comes two days after the U.S. Embassy issued a security warning about a potential plot to attack central Ankara and asked its citizens to avoid the area.

The United States quickly condemned the attack and reaffirmed its "strong partnership with our NATO ally Turkey in combating the shared threat of terrorism."

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu convened an emergency security meeting after the bombing Sunday.

Dogan Asik, a bus passenger when the explosion occurred, said, “We were thrown further back into the bus from the force of the explosion.” Asik sustained injuries on his face and arm.

Emergency services work at the explosion site in Ankara, Turkey, March 13, 2016.
Emergency services work at the explosion site in Ankara, Turkey, March 13, 2016.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, the third to strike the capital in six months. Ankara says that attack is carried out by a Syrian man with links to Kurdish militia groups.

Security officials at the scene have been quoted as saying the attack shared similarities with last month's car bombing of a military bus in Ankara. Responsibility for that attack, which killed 29, was claimed by TAK, a splinter Kurdish rebel group. Turkish authorities claim the group is linked to the PKK, which security forces are currently fighting, but is a claim the group denies.

The leader of the main pro-Kurdish political party, the People’s Democratic Party, Selahattin Demirtas, strongly condemned Sunday’s bombing.

Ankara has been battling the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, which has been fighting a 30-year guerrilla war for more Kurdish autonomy in southeastern Turkey.

Turkey also has been targeted by Islamic State group, which was blamed for last October's suicide bombing at a peace rally in Ankara that killed more than 100 people — the bloodiest single terrorist attack since Turkey became a modern state in 1923.

Dorian Jones contributed to this report from Istanbul