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Gas cylinder bomb caused blast at Turkish election rally

An injured man is carried after an explosion during an election rally of pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP) in Diyarbakir, Turkey, June 5, 2015

By Seyhmus Cakan

A bomb made from a gas cylinder packed with ball bearings caused one of the deadly blasts at a Kurdish election rally, Turkish security sources said on Saturday, a day after the attack killed two and wounded more than 100.

Two blasts, which President Tayyip Erdogan described as a “provocation” designed to undermine peace ahead of Sunday’s parliamentary election, tore through a rally where thousands had gathered in support of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in Diyarbakir, the largest city in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast.

Ball bearings, nails and other metal parts from the device were gathered as evidence under the supervision of prosecutors but no suspects have been identified, security sources told Reuters. Security camera footage was being analysed, the chief prosecutor in Diyarbakir said.

Tensions have run high in Turkey as the HDP aims to overcome a 10 percent vote threshold to enter parliament. Some opinion polls show it could seize enough seats to deprive the long-ruling AK Party of the majority it has enjoyed since sweeping to power in 2002.

Party leaders were due to hold their final rallies on Saturday.

In a television interview late on Friday, Erdogan said security would be tightened after the blasts.

“The incident has to me seriously cast a shadow over the election. We will hold the election one way or another. We are trying to hold this election in the best possible conditions, increasing all security measures,” he told ATV.

“TERRIFYING” CRUSH

Eyewitness Guy Martin, a British photographer, told Reuters the blasts occurred some five minutes apart – the first in a rubbish bin which was ripped apart and the second in front a power generator. In the aftermath he saw one person who had lost a leg and others with shrapnel wounds.

“It was a heart-shaking, ribcage-shaking noise,” he said of one of the explosions. “The most terrifying thing is that crush of people. It was chaos, I couldn’t move, people were panicking.”

Police fired water cannon and tear gas to disperse crowds after the blasts, witnesses said.

HDP Chairman Selahattin Demirtas, who had been due to speak at the rally, called on his supporters to remain calm.

Security has been tight at HDP rallies. Nationalists clashed with HDP supporters at a Demirtas rally in the northern town of Erzurum. Demirtas has said his party has been the target of more than 70 violent attacks during the campaign.

Erdogan, who used to head the AK Party, has accused the HDP of being a front for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which took up arms in 1984 in an insurgency that killed 40,000 people.

Jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan and Ankara launched peace talks more than two years ago.

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