Erdogan: Istanbul Suicide Bombers Were Turkish

ISTANBUL - Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday said two suicide bombers involved in Thursday's bomb attacks on British interests in Istanbul that killed at least 30 people were Turkish citizens.

Speaking at the funerals of two policemen killed in the attacks, Erdogan pointed out that all four suicide bombers were Turkish. He was referring not just to Thursday's incidents but also to the bomb attacks last Saturday on two Istanbul synagogues that claimed the lives of 25 people.

"It is unfortunate that among the victims are four who belong to the terrorists among our citizens," Erdogan said in translated remarks. "These people, who had connections beyond our borders, are the ones who did it ... We hope it will not happen again."

The suicide bombers hit the Istanbul headquarters of the London-based bank HSBC and the British consulate on Thursday in almost simultaneous attacks. More than 450 people were injured.

Among the dead were the British consul general, Roger Short, and a 58-year-old Australian national. The vast majority of the dead were Turkish.

Erdogan's comments came after Istanbul's police chief, Celalettin Cerrah, accused the Turkish media of contributing to the second set of bomb blasts in the city by prematurely identifying suspects behind the earlier bombs.

"If there hadn't been this irresponsibility, these victims would not be laying here today - 27 citizens would not have died," said the police chief, speaking at the same funeral ceremony. "We were about to arrest them. We were on their trail," said Cerrah, referring to the suicide bombers.

Even before the official identification of those behind the attacks on the two synagogues, Turkish newspapers named those suspected of procuring the explosive-laden vehicles.

Hurriyet newspaper on Friday named Azad Ekinci and Feridu Ugurlu as the two suicide bombers in Thursday's attacks and had earlier reported that they were involved in Saturday's attacks on the two synagogues.

Hurriyet yesterday reported that 18 people had been arrested in connection with Thursday's blasts.

The Turkish foreign minister said on Friday that there had been arrests but refused to go into details.