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Istanbul suicide attack highlights Turkey's struggle with militant groups

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Interior Minister Besir Atalay, on a trip to China, said the government had “certain suspicions, certain evidence” about who to blame, but at this point would go no further.

The bombing took place in Istanbul’s main square, a few strides from a monument dedicated to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who founded modern Turkey in 1923. The square was draped in Turkish flags to mark Republic Day, which was celebrated on Friday.

The PKK and the cease-fire

The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) – which fought the Turkish military viciously in the 1980s and 1990s for more Kurdish rights, and is often referred to by Turkish officials as “terrorists” – said it could not continue a cease-fire announced in mid-August.

The group has declared it would no longer target civilians, and last week a top commander based in northern Iraq said the PKK preferred to continue the cease-fire if the government would commit to dialogue.

“We are actually in favor of a permanent cease-fire,” Murat Karayilan told the Radikal newspaper. “We are waiting. We have not decided yet.”

Scene of the blast

At the scene of the blast, glass covered nearby sidewalks and streets, and forensic teams scoured the area for evidence before taking away the remains of the bomber.

Police reported that a second explosive device was found and failed to detonate. Close to the explosion site, a small propane tank typically used for cooking in Turkish homes, and a large cook pot could be seen.

Police buses and water canon vehicles are regularly parked in the spot, and serve as a base for the riot police who constantly patrol the thousands of tourists and Turks who daily walk along the popular Istiklal pedestrian avenue, which starts at Taksim.

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