Report: Kurdish Group Claims Istanbul Bombing

ANKARA, Turkey-- A Kurdish militant group claimed responsibility for a suicide attack that wounded 32 people in Istanbul over the weekend, a pro-Kurdish news agency reported Thursday.

The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons, an offshoot of the autonomy-seeking Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, claimed responsibility for Sunday's attack, the pro-Kurdish Firat News agency reported on its website. The PKK had denied any role in the suicide bombing Monday, when it extended a unilateral rebel cease-fire until parliamentary elections next summer in hopes of opening a dialogue with Turkish leaders.

The main Kurdish rebel group has always distanced itself from violent attacks by the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons in Turkish cities. The Falcons operate with some autonomy, and it said Thursday it had had no involvement in the PKK's decision to extend the cease-fire and would press ahead with attacks, Firat reported.

Turkish authorities have identified the suicide bomber as 24-year-old Vedat Acar, a Kurd trained in a Kurdish rebel camp in the Hakurk area in northern Iraq, Turkish media reported Thursday. The Falcons said Acar was a senior member of their group, according to the Firat agency.

Firat quoted Dogan Baz, a spokesman for the Falcons' group, which is known by its Kurdish acronym TAK, as saying Acar had "organized the attack and acted on his own initiative."

"As long as actions aimed against the Kurdish people and its values continue, the TAK will continue with its actions," the group said.

Baz said Sunday's attack, in Istanbul's Taksim square, was aimed at police rather than civilians. It wounded 15 riot police officers and 17 passers-by.

Kurdish rebels have been fighting for autonomy mainly in the Kurdish-dominated southeast since 1984. The Falcons surfaced after the capture of Kurdish rebel chief Abdullah Ocalan in 1999.

The Falcons are known to be recruiting former Kurdish rebels as well as Kurdish youth who have migrated to big cities such as Istanbul, authorities say.

The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people. The rebels and Kurdish militants have also carried out numerous bombings and suicide attacks around the country.