Two Killed, More Than 100 Injured in Blast at Kurdish Rally in Turkey

Pro-Kurdish party leader calls for calm; explosions come two days before election; security source says there were two blasts.

Seyhmus Cakan
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People look at smoke from an explosion during a rally by the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP) on June 5, 2015 in Diyarbakir, two days ahead of legislative polls.
People look at smoke from an explosion during a rally by the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP) on June 5, 2015 in Diyarbakir, two days ahead of legislative polls.Credit: AFP
Seyhmus Cakan

REUTERS - Two blasts ripped through a Kurdish rally in Turkey on Friday, killing two people and injuring more than 100 two days before a general election, and the prime minister said it was unclear if the explosions were accidental or an attack.

Initial reports said there had been one explosion in the mainly Kurdish Turkish city of Diyarbakir but a senior security source told Reuters there had been two blasts.

Officials initially blamed a faulty power transformer at the rally site but later ruled that possibility out.

The explosions killed two people and injured more than 100, Agriculture Minister Mehdi Eker was quoted as saying by state-run Anadolu news agency.

Doctors at hospitals in the city told Reuters more than 100 people had sought treatment. An urgent appeal was made for blood donations.

Tensions have run high as the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) campaigns to become the first party with Kurdish origins to win seats in parliament in Sunday's election. Previously, Kurdish MPs have joined the legislature as independents.

The HDP needs to overcome a 10 percent vote threshold, and some opinion polls show it could seize enough seats to deprive the long-ruling AK Party of the majority it has enjoyed since sweeping to power in 2002.

President Tayyip Erdogan said the blasts were a "provocation" designed to undermine peace before Sunday's parliamentary election.In a written statement expressing sadness over the incident and condolences for the victims, Erdogan said state authorities were conducting the investigation into the incident sensitively.

"It is not yet clear whether this was an attack or an accident. Whatever caused it, we will find out," said Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, referring to Friday's explosion in Diyarbakir. He was addressing supporters at a rally in the city of Gaziantep.

HDP Chairman Selahattin Demirtas called on his supporters to remain calm. "We don't know the cause of the blast," he said in a live interview with CNN Turk, adding the injuries included the loss of limbs.

"It is thought-provoking that this occurred so close to the election," he added.

Police fire water cannon

Energy Minister Taner Yildiz, also speaking to CNN Turk, said it was clear the blast was not caused by an electrical fault in a power transformer at the rally site. He said the damage indicated the blast had occurred outside the generator.

Witnesses told Reuters they heard two blasts at the rally site and that the first one came from a garbage container. It was not possible to immediately verify this information.

Television footage showed people carrying the injured on stretchers as organisers of the rally for the pro-Kurdish HDP announced on loudspeakers that the explosion had been caused by a fault in a power generator and urged people to stay calm.

The explosion rocked the parade ground just before the HDP's Demirtas was to address the crowd. Police fired water cannon to disperse protesters who remained at the parade ground. The rally was subsequently canceled.

Security has been tight at HDP political rallies. On Thursday, nationalists clashed with HDP supporters at a Demirtas rally in the northern town of Erzurum.

Demirtas has said his party has been the target of more than 70 violent attacks during the campaign.

President Tayyip Erdogan, who used to head the AK Party, has accused the HDP of being a front for the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which took up arms in 1984 in an insurgency that killed 40,000 people.

Jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan and Ankara launched peace talks more than two years ago.

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