ANKARA, Turkey - Suspected Kurdish rebels detonated a car bomb yesterday near a bus carrying soldiers in a Kurdish-dominated city in southeastern Turkey, killing five people and wounding 67.
Thirty soldiers were among the wounded in the attack, the deadliest against Turkish troops since an Oct. 21 ambush that left 13 soldiers dead and prompted Turkey to mass tens of thousands of troops on the border with Iraq, where Kurdish rebels have hideouts.
The attack appeared to be in retaliation for three air strikes by Turkish warplanes against shelters of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, in northern Iraq last month. The pro-Kurdish Firat news agency reported that PKK leaders in Iraq have declared big cities in Turkey targets.
The bus was passing a five-star hotel in Diyarbakir when suspected rebels detonated a remote-controlled car bomb, authorities said. Five civilians were killed, including two high school students who were leaving a building where they were taking courses for university entrance exams.
The bombing, which was heard 2 miles away, burned at least four cars near the Dedeman Hotel and shattered windows of surrounding buildings. Firefighters battled the flames for more than an hour, and medics raced to treat wounded people screaming for help, private Dogan news agency reported.
The bus driver, who was among the wounded, said the bomb exploded on the right side of his vehicle. "We were surrounded by flames," Cahit Kara told the Anatolia news agency from his hospital bed.
The blast occurred about 600 feet from the guarded gate of a military housing complex, where the soldiers - officers and noncommissioned officers - were returning from barracks outside the city, Anatolia said.
"A bomb left in a car . . . was set off with a remote control. It was a very strong one. It was targeting a military service bus," said Diyarbakir Governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu.
Authorities blamed the blast on Kurdish rebels. Police said two suspects reportedly escaped the scene, but authorities denied news reports that they were captured.
The PKK has battled for autonomy in southeastern Turkey for more than two decades, a campaign that has left tens of thousands dead. The group uses strongholds in northern Iraq for cross-border strikes.
The Turkish military said it killed up to 175 rebels in the first air assault Dec. 16, but the PKK denied the figure. Turkey has carried out the strikes largely based on military intelligence provided by the United States.
"Today's bombing in Diyarbakir is a horrific example of the senseless tragedy that terrorism brings," the US Embassy in Ankara said in a statement.