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Bombers hit Istanbul restaurant
Updated: 2004-03-10 08:47

Two suicide bombers struck a crowded restaurant in an Istanbul building used by freemasons late on Tuesday, killing two people and wounding five more, the city's governor said.

The explosion, which occurred on the Asian side of the Bosphorus Straits which bisect Turkey's largest city, revived memories of four deadly blasts blamed on the al Qaeda network in November in Istanbul in which 61 people were killed.

Rescuers load an injured man onto an ambulance after an explosion in Istanbul Tuesday night. [cnn.com]
Governor Muammer Guler told reporters two men entered the restaurant on the ground floor of the three-storey building at 10:10 p.m. (3:10 p.m. EST) after firing at the windows and shooting a security guard in the foot.

"(One of the men) detonated the bomb he had on him," Guler said, killing himself and a waiter.

The second attacker lost an arm in the blast and was rushed to hospital "with his intestines hanging out," Guler said.

About 40 people had been eating in the restaurant at the time of the attack. The explosion occurred near the entrance and the wounded were all seated nearby, Guler said. Apart from broken windows, the building did not suffer much damage.

"The identity of the bombers is being investigated," he said.

Two eyewitnesses spoke of hearing two explosions, but this could not be immediately confirmed.

"I heard a second blast and looked out the window and saw smoke rising from the building," Ahmet Gunesli told NTV commercial television.

Freemasonry has long claimed followers in Muslim but secular Turkey among businessmen, academics and politicians, especially in Istanbul, a vibrant, cosmopolitan city of more than 10 million people.

November's attacks targeted two synagogues, the British consulate and a British-owned bank, killing 61 and wounding 644 people in one of the worst spate of peacetime violence in modern Turkish history.

Turkish prosecutors have opened a court case against 69 people accused of involvement in the attacks, which the authorities have linked to the al Qaeda network.

Five defendants face charges carrying a life sentence for "trying to change the constitutional order by force." The rest could face jail terms of up to 22-1/2 years for charges including being a member of, or aiding, an illegal group.

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