Copyright 2016 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.
ISTANBUL- Turkey declared a national day of mourning and paid tribute to the dead Sunday after two bombings in Istanbul killed 38 people and wounded 155 others near a soccer stadium. The carnage was claimed by a Turkey-based Kurdish militant group.
The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons, or TAK, said two of its members had sacrificed their lives in the Saturday night attack that targeted security forces outside the Besiktas stadium shortly after the conclusion of a match.
A statement posted on TAK's website described the blasts as reprisal for state violence in the southeast and the ongoing imprisonment of Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. Authorities consider TAK a PKK offshoot.
The twin car-and-suicide bombings near the stadium enraged top officials, including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who vowed to hunt down the perpetrators. The attack was the latest large-scale assault to traumatize a nation confronting an array of security threats.
Turkey is a NATO member and a partner in the U.S.-led war against the Islamic State.
The attack targeted police officers, killing 30 of them along with seven civilians and an unidentified person, Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu told reporters. He said 13 people had been arrested in connection with the "terrorist" act.
In an address at a funeral for the slain police officers before TAK's statement was released, a furious Soylu condemned Kurdish rebels and their allies in the West, referring to the PKK as "animals."
"Have you accomplished anything beyond being the servants, pawns and hit men of certain dark forces, of your dark Western partners?" he asked.
Turkish officials made no further comments after the TAK claimed responsibility.
The battle between the PKK and the Turkish state has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of citizens. Turkish officials frequently accuse the West of supporting the Kurdish insurgency and of interfering in Ankara's fight against the militants.
Hundreds of flag-carrying demonstrators marched along Istanbul's coastline toward the stadium at the heart of the blast area. Flags flew at half-staff across the country and at Turkey's foreign missions. Passers-by placed flowers on barriers surrounding the soccer stadium.
The first and larger explosion took place about 10:30 p.m. Saturday after a Turkish Super League soccer game.
Soylu said the first blast was caused by a passing vehicle that detonated in an area where police special forces were located at the stadium exit. A riot police bus appears to have been the target. Moments later, a person who had been stopped in nearby Macka Park committed suicide by triggering explosives, according to the minister.
TAK claimed the Turkish people weren't their target but warned "no one should expect a comfortable life" as long as the ruling party "continues to torture the mothers of Kurdistan every day."