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Sunday, March 14, 1999 Published at 01:31 GMT


World: Europe

Turkish firebomb kills 13

Firefighters battle to rescue trapped shoppers

Thirteen people have been killed in a petrol bomb attack on an Istanbul shopping centre, according to the Anatolia news agency.


Ankara Correspondent Chris Morris: "Random attacks impossible to predict"
Attackers are reported to have thrown the firebomb at a six-storey building in a busy shopping centre in Istanbul's Goztepe district on Saturday.

Local fire chief Sabri Yalin said armed men forced people to the top floors of the shopping centre at gunpoint before pouring petrol into the building and setting it alight.

Reports say most of the victims died of smoke inhalation as they took refuge on the top floor of the building, while two died in the flames, which spread quickly through the lower floors.

"The whole building became like one enormous flame," said one witness - a young boy.


Chris Morris reports: Panic broke out among Saturday afternoon shoppers
"Everyone ran up the stairs to the top and they were screaming for help."

BBC Ankara Correspondent Chris Morris says the attack occurred in an ordinary suburb on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, which would have been very crowded on Saturday afternoon.

No-one has claimed responsibility for the attack - one of the worst in living memory to hit Istanbul.


[ image: Volunteers fought to rescue those who were trapped]
Volunteers fought to rescue those who were trapped
However Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, facing general elections in April, has promised that the bombers will be caught quickly.

"They are trying to cause panic during an election period," he said.

But the Turkish people would safeguard their democracy, Mr Ecevit said.

This was the latest in a series of bomb attacks in Turkey over the last few days.

Earlier this week, two groups claimed responsibility for a bomb which exploded in another shopping centre in Istanbul, killing one person.

Suspected PKK links

One, a known radical Maoist group, has recently been linked to the rebel Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The other is a previously unknown group calling itself the Kurdish Revenge Brigade.

Correspondents said the attacks could be in revenge for the capture of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan by Turkey last month, although they say the PKK itself is not known for attacks in Turkish cities.

Turkish security forces have been on high alert since Mr Ocalan was brought back to Turkey.

He has been charged with treason and is awaiting trial at a high-security prison on an island in the Sea of Marmara, south of Istanbul.



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