ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A suicide bomber thought to be from a leftist militant group threw a grenade into a police station in Istanbul on Tuesday then blew himself up, killing a police officer and wounding at least seven other people.
The Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C), which has been blamed for at least one previous suicide attack in Turkey’s largest city, said in a statement that one of its members had carried out the attack in the suburb of Sultangazi.
It was not immediately possible to verify the statement, which was published on a website close to the group, but a high-ranking security officer told Reuters the security services also believed the DHKP/C was responsible.
“First (the attacker) threw a grenade, then he blew himself up at the entrance of the police station, where the X-ray machines are located,” Istanbul police chief Huseyin Capkin told reporters at the scene.
“The policeman working at the entrance was killed. Another four personnel were wounded, as well as three others who are civilians,” he said, adding that the attacker was aged around 25 but declining to comment further on his identity.
The DHKP/C, founded in 1978, wants to set up a socialist state in Turkey and is vehemently opposed to the existing establishment and to the United States, according to the U.S. National Counterterrorism Centre (NCTC).
The group, deemed a terrorist organisation by both the United States and Turkey, was blamed for a suicide attack in 2001 that killed two police officers and a tourist in Istanbul’s central Taksim Square.
The front doors of the police station in Sultangazi, a largely working class residential district on the northern edge of central Istanbul, were destroyed in Tuesday’s blast.
Medics ferried the wounded to a local hospital while armed police sealed off streets around the building.
The DHKP/C has in the past attacked Turkish official targets with bombs, but arrests of some of its members in recent years have weakened its capabilities, according to the NCTC.
Separatist Kurdish militants, far-left groups and Islamic radicals have all carried out attacks in Istanbul in the past.
The main domestic security threat in Turkey comes from the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), deemed a terrorist group by the United States, European Union and Turkey. But the PKK has focused its campaign largely on targets in the mainly Kurdish southeast.
The Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK), a group linked to the PKK, have also claimed responsibility for previous bomb attacks in Istanbul and other cities around the country.
The most serious recent attacks in Istanbul occurred in November 2003, when car bombs shattered two synagogues, killing 30 people and wounding 146. Authorities said the attack bore the hallmarks of al Qaeda.
Part of the HSBC Bank headquarters was destroyed and the British consulate was damaged in two more explosions that killed a further 32 people a week later.
Additional reporting by Ayla Jean Yackley; Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Kevin Liffey