A car filled with explosives blew up in a public square in the heart of Ankara, the Turkish capital, on Sunday evening, killing more than 30 people in the latest of a string of terrorist attacks that have destabilized the country.
The attack, which raised questions about the Turkish government’s ability to protect its citizens, occurred just days after the United States Embassy warned of a potential terrorist plot to attack government buildings and residences in Ankara.
Turkey once sought to contain the chaos unfolding across the Middle East, but is now increasingly being sucked into the violence. Devastating bombings, some linked to the extremists of the Islamic State and others to Kurdish militants who have been carrying out a long insurgency against the Turkish government, have struck gatherings of activists, Turkish military targets and a landmark tourist site in Istanbul. But the attack on Sunday seemed to suggest a shift in tactics, with the targeting of a large gathering of civilians in a major transportation hub.
At least 34 people were killed and 125 wounded in the attack, Health Minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu said. There were no immediate claims of responsibility. The Turkish authorities said an investigation was underway.
In a written statement, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said terrorist organizations were singling out civilians because the groups were losing their struggle against Turkish security forces.
Three weeks earlier, a bombing on a military convoy in Ankara killed 28 people. A militant group based in Turkey called the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons claimed responsibility for that attack, identifying the bomber as a 26-year-old Turkish citizen. The Turkish government blamed a Syrian Kurdish militia that is supported by the United States in the fight against the Islamic State in Syria.
That bombing was believed to be a response to counterinsurgency operations in the predominately Kurdish southeast. Turkey has been shelling positions held in northern Syria by Kurdish militias that it deems to be extensions of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. The party, known as the P.K.K., has been fighting for autonomy for more than three decades.
But while that attack struck Turkish security forces, the attack on Sunday appeared intended to kill civilians, stoking fears of a spillover of violence to metropolitan areas.
Photographs of the blast area on Sunday showed several buses and vehicles on fire, as well as shattered glass from nearby shop windows.
“It looks and sounds larger than the attack last month,” said Mehmet Arabaci, an Ankara resident who took photographs of the scene after hearing the explosion.
Almost immediately, the Turkish authorities, as they had after other attacks, imposed a ban on local news media coverage of the bombing. And a short while later, a court in Ankara issued an order blocking access to social media in an effort to prevent the dissemination of photographs from the bombing scene. (Courtesy New York Times)