Bombings Reveal Tensions in Turkey

ISTANBUL -- Istanbul's governor said Monday that two bomb blasts that killed 17 people and injured 150 others in a residential neighborhood in Istanbul appear to have links to a Kurdish rebel group -- but the rebels immediately denied involvement.

Governor Muammer Guler said, however, that police were still investigating the Sunday night explosions in a packed square, the deadliest attack against civilians in Turkey in five years.

A pro-Kurdish news agency, Firat, reported a Kurdish rebel leader as saying the rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, did not carry out the bombing.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan canceled a Cabinet meeting Monday in the capital, Ankara, so he could travel to Istanbul.

The attack came on the eve of deliberations by the Turkey's top court on whether to ban the ruling party for allegedly trying to steer the country toward Islamic rule. There was no evidence of a link and no claim of responsibility. Turkey is home to a variety of militants, including Kurdish rebels, Islamic extremists and alleged coup plotters with ties to the secular establishment.

The bombings and the legal challenge to the government highlight a growing mood of uncertainty in Turkey, where an Islamic-oriented government that won a strong mandate in elections last year is locked in a power struggle with secular circles that have backing in the military and judiciary.

The case before the top court is pivotal in that conflict, which has distracted attention from key policies such as Turkey's troubled bid to join the European Union.

Opposition leader Deniz Baykal said security officials told him that the type of bombs used were similar to those in attacks in Ankara and the mostly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir that were blamed on the PKK.