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Two Truck-Bombs Explode, Wreck British Sites in Turkey

By Craig S. Smith

The New York Times -- ISTANBUL, Turkey

Two truck-bomb explosions wrecked the British consulate and a British bank here on Thursday, killing at least 27 people and injuring 450 in an attack that coincided with President Bush’s state visit to London.

As Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair prepared for a joint declaration of anti-terrorist resolve, the 18-story Istanbul headquarters of HSBC bank, and minutes later the British consulate were blown apart by bombs that witnesses said were contained in pickup trucks driven up to the buildings.

The British consul general, Roger Short, a 58-year-old career diplomat, was among those killed instantly. Distraught people, screaming for help with blood streaming from their injuries, ran through the busy streets that surround both the bank and the consulate. Rescue workers dug into rubble searching for the dead and injured, and guided others from the carnage via second-story windows or wrecked storefronts.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw of Britain said that the bombings, which occurred just minutes apart, bore “all the hallmarks of international terrorism practiced by al-Qaida.”

An anonymous caller to the Anatolian news agency claimed Thursday’s attack was a joint effort of al-Qaida and a Turkish group, the Islamic Front of the Raiders of the Great Orient, or IBDA-C, the agency reported. The same group also claimed responsibility for the twin bombings of two Istanbul synagogues on Saturday, in which 24 people were killed.

American officials said they do not see evidence of coordination between attacks in Iraq and the terrorist bombings in Turkey, a longtime NATO member and American ally whose government nonetheless refused after long hesitation last spring to allow U.S. troops to pass through Turkish territory to invade northern Iraq.

Most Turks also opposed the war itself. But this week’s attacks suggest that terrorists want to punish any country, and particularly Muslim nations, allied with the United States. As Bush noted in a speech in London on Wednesday, Islamic states allied with the West have become terrorist targets many times in recent months -- in Bali and Jakarta in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, in Saudi Arabia, in Morocco, and in occupied Iraq itself.

Since the war in Iraq this spring, one fear of neighboring governments had been that instability and violence would spread outward from Iraq itself. In recent days, attacks both in Iraq and neighboring countries have seemed to gain in gruesome intensity.

Seventeen people died in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, when a bomb ripped through a housing compound on Nov. 9. Now, two carefully targeted twin bombings in less than a week have struck at both Turkey’s close ties with the West and with Israel, and the centuries-long coexistence of Jews and Muslims in a proudly secular Islamic state.

In the United States, Attorney General John Ashcroft said on Thursday that this week’s bombings were very much in the mode of al-Qaida. “We should make no mistake in thinking that terrorism is somehow abating,” he said. “Terrorism is still a very serious threat.”

While Turkey has long suffered terrorist attacks, largely because of its long war with Kurdish separatists, the country has not seen anything like this week’s bombings in its 80-year history as a secular Muslim state.