ANKARA, Turkey – A suspected car bomb went off near a high school in the Turkish capital on Tuesday, igniting other vehicles and killing three people in a nearby building, the interior minister said. The blast also wounded 15 people.
The explosion was "highly likely to be a terrorist attack," said Interior Minister Idris Naim Sahin.
"The explosion occurred in a place where car and people traffic is intense. It looks like the intension was to inflict as much harm to people as possible."
The parked car was purchased a week ago but it was not yet registered.
Kurdish rebels fighting for autonomy in southeastern Turkey have recently escalated their attacks on Turkish targets, but Islamist and leftist militants have also carried out some bombings in this NATO member and U.S. ally.
Kurdish rebels were blamed for a small bomb attack in the Mediterranean resort town of Kemer that wounded 10 people, including four Swedes on Aug. 28. Turkish warplanes bombed suspected rebel hideouts in northern Iraq last month in response to the escalation of attacks by the guerrillas.
The bodies of three people were found in a building near the car that exploded in downtown Ankara, Sahin said. Fifteen people were also wounded, he added.
Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said police had information that a bomb was planted on the car, although other officials quoted a witness as saying that a burning gas canister had been tossed onto the vehicle.
The explosion sparked a series of blasts in adjacent vehicles.
Reyhan Altintas, a neighborhood administrator, said she rushed outside after hearing a loud blast. It was followed by three other blasts, apparently caused by cars catching fire.
At least five of the wounded were in serious condition, said Sahin.
"I had never heard anything like it in my life," witness Adnan Yavuz said of the initial blast. "Then came another explosion and parts of a car dropped from the tree."
The wounded were initially treated in the school yard before medics rushed to the scene and whisked them away to hospitals, NTV television said. Authorities evacuated the school as worried parents rushed to pick up their children.