Istanbul bombs kill two, Qaeda claims attacks
Simultaneous bomb attacks rocked two hotels and a gas depot in Istanbul on Tuesday, killing a Turk and an Iranian and injuring 11 including foreign tourists at the height of the holiday season.
A group claiming links to al Qaeda said it was behind the early morning attacks and warned of more to come, according to a message on an Islamist Web site.
One hotel was occupied mainly by Iranian traders, the other in an area frequented by foreign backpackers and just a stone's throw from some of Turkey's best known tourist sights.
Those injured included Dutch, Chinese, Ukrainian and Spanish citizens, as well as a Turk and a Turkmenistan national.
"The Mujahideen from the Abu Hafs (al-Masri) Brigades carried out the first in a series of operations which will be launched against European countries after they all rejected the truce offered by our sheikh (Osama bin Laden)," the Web message said.
The statement's authenticity could not be verified. The group has repeatedly claimed responsibility for attacks, including the Madrid train bombings, but has not been officially linked to any of them.
Turkey's largest city and commercial capital has been targeted repeatedly in recent years by bombers as diverse as Kurdish militants, far-leftists and radical Islamists.
A Turkish group linked to al Qaeda said it carried out four suicide bomb attacks last November on Jewish and British targets in which more than 60 people were killed and hundreds injured.
Staff at the Pars Hotel in Laleli district, where the two men were killed, said they received a telephone warning 10 minutes before the explosion.
A tip-off was also received before two separate devices exploded at a storage complex for liquid petroleum gas in an outlying area of the city, causing damage but no casualties, state-run Anatolian news agency said.
Iranian trader Siamak Jihani, 54, said he was fast asleep at the Pars when the blast ripped through a room two floors below him at around 1.40 a.m. (2240 GMT).
"There was a really loud explosion and the room shook," he said, his foot bandaged after he cut it on broken glass. "The corridor was filled with smoke. It was a scary experience."
Anatolian named one of the dead as Haydar Baydar, 31, from Van in eastern Turkey and the other as Mahdi Pooliki from Iran.
The other explosion happened about three km (two miles) away at the Star Holiday Hotel in the historic hub of Sultanahmet, only a few hundred meters (yards) from Byzantine and Ottoman monuments such as Haghia Sofia basilica and the Blue Mosque.
Television pictures showed emergency services carrying casualties, mostly young foreigners, to ambulances outside. The blast ripped away external walls on two floors of the hotel.
Turkish financial markets shrugged off the blasts but the attacks raised fears of damage to Turkey's tourism industry, which the government and investors are banking on to help curb the country's burgeoning current-account deficit.
"The fact that terror incidents like this are constantly kept on the agenda will have a negative impact on our tourism sector and on the economy, which has been going well in recent days," Timur Bayindir, chairman of the Touristic Hoteliers, Operators and Investors' Union, said in a statement.
In June, four people were killed and 15 wounded in an explosion on a bus in Istanbul, shortly before President Bush rrived in the city for a NATO ummit.