The twin blasts in Istanbul, the worst terrorist attack in Turkey’s history, were blamed on al-Qaida.
President Bush, on a state visit in Britain, said at a meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair that Thursday’s bombings showed that terrorists had “utter contempt for innocent life.”
“The terrorists hope to intimidate, they hope to demoralize. They are not going to succeed,” President Bush said.
Blair said the attacks reaffirmed his stance on fighting terrorism. “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,” he said.
A man called a Turkish semiofficial news agency claiming responsibility for the attacks, naming a Turkish group and the al-Qaida network.
“I’m afraid it has all the hallmarks of international terrorism practiced by al-Qaida,” British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said.
The first explosion was in the financial district at the Turkish headquarters of HSBC, the world’s second-largest bank. The blast shattered windows of nearby skyscrapers, in addition to the damage it caused the 18-story bank headquarters.
“The windows just exploded, everything exploded,” according to an eyewitness working in the HSBC building.
The explosion carved a 9-foot-deep crater in the streets outside the bank, with body parts, shells of cars and broken glass scattered on the street, the Associated Press reported.
The second explosion, five minutes later and five miles away, tore down the wall surrounding the garden of the British consulate.
“There was a great blast, massive blast,” said Hakan Kozan, 29, who said he saw a white truck heading toward the consulate about 10 seconds before the explosion, Reuters reported.
Turkey, one of the United States’ closest allies in the Muslim world, is a target for Islamist militants because of its ties to the West. U.S. officials have called Turkey a model Islamic democracy, encouraging other Muslim countries to emulate it.
Thursday’s blasts come five days after two synagogues in Istanbul were bombed, killing 25 people and wounding hundreds.
“We will continue our fight against terrorism,” Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul told reporters in Stockholm. “This time it was British, last week it was two synagogues.”
Turkey’s economy, struggling with a recession and growing debt, could face another enormous setback because of Thursday’s bombings. Istanbul’s stock exchange closed after the explosions, but the stock index still suffered a 7.37 percent dip before closing.