ANKARA, Turkey — A car bomb went off near bus stops in the heart of Turkey’s capital on Sunday, killing at least 27 people and wounded around 75 others, officials said.
The blast occurred on the city’s main boulevard, Ataturk Bulvari, close to Ankara’s main square, Kizilay, and a park.
The private NTV news channel said a car, believed to be laden with explosives, detonated close to a bus. Several vehicles then caught fire, it said. The area is close to government offices, including ministries. Riot police buses are usually stationed in the area, but didn’t appear to be the target of the attack.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu convened an emergency security meeting after the bombing, which also shattered the windows of shops that line the boulevard and the square.
Dogan Asik, 28, said he was on a packed bus when the explosion occurred.
“There were about 40 people,” said Asik, who sustained injuries on his face and arm. “It (the bus) slowed down. A car went by us, and ‘boom,’ it exploded.”
Police sealed off the area and pushed onlookers and journalists back, warning there could be a second bomb. Forensic teams were examining the scene.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, although Kurdish militants and the Islamic State group have carried out bombings in the city recently. A far-left militant group is also active in Turkey.
The bombing is the third in the city in five months and comes as Turkey is faced with an array of issues, including renewed fighting with the Kurdish rebels, threats from the Islamic State group and a Syrian refugee crisis.
It occurred just three weeks after a suicide car bombing in the capital targeted buses carrying military personnel, killing 29 people. A Kurdish militant group which is an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdish rebel group, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, claimed responsibility for the Feb. 17 attack. The government, however, said that attack was carried out by a Syrian Kurdish militia group in concert with the PKK, which has waged a 30-year insurgency.
Sunday’s attack also came two days after the U.S. Embassy issued a security warning about a potential plot to attack Turkish government buildings and housing in one Ankara neighbourhood and asked its citizens to avoid those areas.
As with the previous bombings, Turkish authorities quickly imposed a ban Sunday preventing media organizations from broadcasting or publishing graphic images of the blast or from the scene.
The country’s pro-Kurdish party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party, condemned the attack the attack and said it shares “the huge pain felt along with our citizens.” The statement was significant because the party is frequently accused of being the armed wing of the PKK — an accusation it denies — and of not speaking out against PKK violence.
Hundreds of people have been killed in Turkey in renewed fighting following the collapse of the peace process between the government and the PKK in July. Authorities on Sunday had declared curfews in two towns in the mainly Kurdish southeast region in anticipation of large-scale military operations against PKK-linked militants.
Turkey also has been struck by several bombings in the last year that were blamed on IS as the government joined efforts led by the U.S. to fight the extremist group in Syria. The deadliest came in October when a peace rally outside Ankara’s main train station killed 102 people.