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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

2 British Buildings Bombed in Turkey

ISTANBUL, Turkey -- Truck bombs killed at least 27 people and wounded nearly 450 in attacks on the British consulate and a London-based bank Thursday -- days after a bloody terrorist strike on Istanbul synagogues. The worst terror bombings in Turkey's history coincided with U.S. President George W. Bush's trip to Britain and were blamed on al-Qaida.

Security forces were on highest alert after the blasts at the high-rise headquarters of the HSBC bank and the British Consulate, which occurred five minutes apart at about 11 a.m. local time. Turkey said suicide bombers carried out the attacks.

British Consul-General Roger Short was among the dead, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said. "He was blown up immediately," consulate chaplain Ian Sherwood told BBC television.

Witnesses said one pickup truck exploded just outside the HSBC building, while another truck crashed into the gate of the British Consulate.

"These are suicide attacks. The man came, rammed into the gates," Interior Minister Abdulkadir Aksu told the semiofficial Anatolia news agency, describing the consulate bombing. The attacker then "set it off, blowing himself up."

The vehicle looked like a catering truck, with explosives placed in food cauldrons, Anatolia quoted police as saying.

The blasts followed a pair of synagogue bombings Saturday that killed 23 people, plus the two bombers. Turkish authorities blamed the attacks on the same groups.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed that Turkey will defeat terrorists and he deplored the timing of the attacks, during the Islamic month of Ramadan.

Bush, meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, said Thursday's bombings showed "utter contempt for innocent life."

"The terrorists hope to intimidate, they hope to demoralize. They are not going to succeed," Bush said at a news conference with Blair.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was scheduled to arrive in Istanbul on Thursday evening. Earlier, he suggested a link to al-Qaida. "I'm afraid it has all the hallmarks of international terrorism practiced by al-Qaida," he said in London.

An unidentified caller to Anatolia said al-Qaida and the militant Islamic Great Eastern Raiders' Front, or IBDA-C, jointly claimed responsibility for attacks.

In Moscow, President Vladimir Putin, speaking just before the blasts, called for broader international cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

"Recent tragic events in Turkey have confirmed once again that international terrorism doesn't reduce its activity," Putin said in televised remarks, referring to the synagogue bombings. "It unleashes strikes throughout the globe."

Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko later condemned Thursday's attacks and expressed Moscow's condolences.

The Turkish central bank said it was taking steps to prevent financial fallout from the attacks, and would intervene to stop fluctuations in the Turkish currency. Turkey's benchmark index dropped about 7 percent until the stock exchange was closed.

It was Turkey's worst terrorist bombing and its highest single-day death toll from terrorism since 1977, when gunmen opened fire on leftists celebrating May Day, killing 37 people.

Turkish army troops made a brief appearance on the streets in Istanbul, deploying on a major highway and standing guard beside police in Istanbul. The deployment was a significant step, since the military is a powerful force that leads the secular establishment in this predominantly Muslim country. The military took power here three times between 1960 and 1980, and in 1997 it forced a religious-oriented government out of power without staging a coup.

The first Istanbul blast was at the Turkish headquarters of HSBC, the world's second-largest bank, shearing off the facade of the 18-story building and shattering the windows of nearby skyscrapers in the affluent district of Levent.

Body parts, the charred shells of cars and broken glass were scattered around a three-meter-deep crater in the street outside the bank. Water gushed out of the top floors of the building.

Bystanders, bloodied and covered in dust, looked dazed as they walked past lines of ambulances. Several people helped carry the limp bodies of victims. Road signs laid on the ground, twisted next to fallen tree trunks.

Another bomb ripped off the wall surrounding the garden of the British Consulate in the downtown Beyoglu district, a popular tourist destination with shops, bars, movie theaters and restaurants. The U.S. Consulate was moved months ago to a more secure location in another district.

"Once again we are reminded of the evil these terrorists pose to people everywhere and to our way of life," Blair said. "Once again we must affirm that in the face of this terrorism there must be no holding back, no compromise, no hesitation in confronting this menace, in attacking it wherever and whenever we can and in defeating it utterly."

Blair also reaffirmed his commitment to the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq. "It should not lessen ... our commitment to Iraq," he said. "On the contrary it shows how important it is to carry on until terrorism is defeated there as well."

The Istanbul State Security Court imposed a ban on news coverage of attacks, barring media from filming or broadcasting the images of attack sites, interviewing officials or reporting about the investigation.

Turkish TV stations continued their broadcasts from the scenes.