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Kurdish militant group TAK claims Istanbul bombing

In a statement on its website, TAK said it was a suicide bombing.

A car bomb ripped through a police bus in central Istanbul during the morning rush hour and killed 11 people on 7 June 2016. Picture: Abed Ahmed.

ISTANBUL - The Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK), an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group, said on Friday it carried out a suicide bombing in Istanbul on 7 June, which killed 11 people.

A car bomb ripped through a police bus in central Istanbul during the morning rush hour on Tuesday near the main tourist district, a major university and the mayor's office. In a statement on its website, TAK said it was a suicide bombing.

GUNSHOTS

Several witness reported hearing gunshots, although there was confusion as to whether attackers had opened fire or whether police officers had been trying to protect colleagues.

"We were told that it was police trying to keep people away from the blast scene," said Mustafa Celik, 51, who owns a tourism agency in a backstreet near the blast site. He likened the impact of the explosion to an earthquake.

"I felt the pressure as if the ground beneath me moved. I've never felt anything this powerful before," he told Reuters.

US Ambassador John Bass condemned the "heinous" attack and said on Twitter the United States stood "shoulder to shoulder" with Turkey in the fight against terrorism.

Turkey has suffered a spate of bombings this year, including two suicide attacks in tourist areas of Istanbul blamed on Islamic State, and two car bombings in the capital, Ankara, which were claimed by a Kurdish militant group.

That has hit tourism in a nation whose Aegean and Mediterranean beaches usually lure droves of European and Russian holidaymakers. Russians stopped coming after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane over Syria last November.

The number of foreign visitors to Turkey fell by 28 percent in April, the biggest drop in 17 years.

"Business hasn't been very good anyway. We're now expecting fast check-outs and we think it will get worse," said Kerem Tataroglu, general manager of the Zurich Hotel, less than 300 meters from where Tuesday's blast happened.

While attacks by Islamic State have tended to draw more attention in the West, Turkey is equally concerned by the rise in attacks by Kurdish militants who had previously concentrated for the most part on the southeast.