An explosion at a downtown park that serves as a bustling travel hub killed at least 34 people and wounded dozens more in the Turkish capital of Ankara on Sunday, the latest in a string of lethal blasts to strike the city over the past six months.
The explosion occurred at about 6:45 p.m. local time, on the fringes of Guven Park in the central Kizilay district. A number of bus stops and shuttle buses use the area as a hub.
No group immediately claimed responsibility. Both Kurdish separatists and Islamic State militants have carried out recent bombings in the capital.
Several government offices, including the Ministry of Justice and the prime minister’s office are housed near the site of Sunday's attack.
Turkish Health Minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu confirmed the death toll at a late-night news conference, according to local reports. The Ankara governor’s office said the explosion was “caused by a bomb-laden car.”
About 125 people injured by the blast were taken to 10 hospitals across Ankara, a bustling metropolis of some 4.5 million people.
The death toll was expected to rise.
Video of the attack captured on security cameras showed several cars cruising down the busy Ataturk Boulevard, before one detonates, spraying flame and shrapnel and sending bystanders scurrying for cover.
Photographs published on local media websites depicted a scorched bus and gutted cars, smoke trailing through the sky in the attack’s aftermath.
“Everybody looked so afraid and some of them were crying,” said 28-year-old Orcun Tokuc, who was on a subway one stop down from the Kizilay station when the attack occurred. “The subway stopped for about two minutes. I felt very nervous and walked down side streets to find a taxi but it was impossible.”
The U.S. Embassy in Ankara on Friday warned citizens against a “potential terrorist plot to attack Turkish government buildings and housing located in the Bahcelievler area of Ankara,” which is west of the bombing site.
Turkey’s broadcasting authority imposed a gag on broadcasting images of the scene and its victims.
It is the third major attack to roil the capital over the last six months.
On Feb. 17 , a splinter Kurdish group, the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks, detonated a car bomb targeting buses carrying security forces, killing 29 people and injuring at least 60 more. That attack took place about a kilometer from Sunday’s blast.
And in October, two Islamic State bombers struck at a pro-peace rally in downtown Ankara, killing more than 100 people, the worst terrorist attack in Turkish history.
Sunday’s attack carries hallmarks common to both groups. Suspicion is likely to fall on Kurdish extremists.
Johnson is a special correspondent