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Military bus bomb marks end of Kurdish ceasefire

By Patrick Cockburn in Istanbul

Suspected Kurdish rebels blew up a military bus in Istanbul yesterday, killing four people in an attack likely to lead to an intensification of the conflict between the Turkish authorities and the country's Kurdish minority.

The explosion, which left three army sergeants and a 17-year-old girl dead and two others seriously wounded, came after a violent weekend in which 12 soldiers and police were killed by PKK Kurdish guerrillas in south-eastern Turkey.

The provincial governor of Istanbul, Huseyin Avni, said the bombing was “a terrorist attack” the aim of which was “to create divisions, tensions and despair”.

The resumption of guerrilla warfare brings to a final end an unofficial truce between the PKK and the government, which last year launched an initiative giving Kurds greater civil rights. That was partly an attempt to terminate a 26-year-civil war in which 40,000 people have been killed.

But the ruling Justice and Development Party, known by its Turkish acronym AKP, of the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivered on few of the promised reforms because it was frightened of being portrayed as soft on Kurdish rebels in forthcoming elections.

Speaking at a service to honour the dead soldiers, Mr Erdogan said he would “annihilate” the PKK. “They will drown in their own blood,” he said, adding that “such kind of bloody attacks will not be able to divert the direction of our nation to grow and be a strong and estimable nation”.

Television screens and newspapers were yesterday dominated by pictures of soldiers' coffins draped with red-and-white Turkish flags.

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