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Bomb-maker foiled in Turkey

Police find a van full of explosives

A van with explosives, detected by a bomb-sniffing dog, was trucked away yesterday from a parking garage in Ankara. Nearby buildings were emptied and cellphones in the area disabled. A van with explosives, detected by a bomb-sniffing dog, was trucked away yesterday from a parking garage in Ankara. Nearby buildings were emptied and cellphones in the area disabled. (Anatolian/reuters)

ISTANBUL - Police found a van packed with explosive chemicals in a multistory parking lot in central Ankara yesterday, according to the city's top official.

The van, a Mercedes model, was found by bomb-sniffing dogs that were part of heavy security measures in the capital on the sixth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States, said the official, Kemal Onal, at a televised news conference.

"The meticulous work by the police prevented a possible disaster," Onal said. "I do not even want to think about what would have happened if the attack had succeeded."

NTV, a privately owned television station, reported that officials from the bomb squad said they had found about 660 pounds of sodium nitrate, a chemical fertilizer that becomes explosive if mixed with other chemicals.

A later statement by Onal's office said that 40 bags of various explosive chemicals were found in the van and analyzed by the police laboratories, but it did not say what the chemicals were. It said the explosives "matched" material confiscated in recent months in security operations against the PKK, the separatist Kurdish rebel organization.

The government said gas cylinders, electronic ignition mechanisms, and a cellphone attached to a detonator were also discovered in the van.

It was not clear what, if anything, had tipped off the Ankara police, who immediately cordoned off a surrounding 3-mile area and emptied buildings nearby as fire brigades and ambulances stood by, according to news reports.

Cellphone service in the neighborhood was also temporarily disabled to prevent any possible remote control detonation of the explosives, NTV reported.

The use of the large van, which was reported stolen about a week ago and had a fake license plate, was reminiscent of two sets of coordinated attacks in Istanbul in 2003, the worst ever in Turkey.

On Nov. 15 that year, vehicles laden with explosives rammed into two synagogues. Five days later, similar attacks were made on the Turkish HSBC bank headquarters and the British Consulate. In all, more than 60 people were killed and hundreds more wounded.

Six Turks and a Syrian, all said to have links to Al Qaeda, were tried in the case, convicted, and jailed for life in Istanbul.

Kurdish separatists have also carried out bombings in Turkey.

Sept. 12 is the anniversary of a 1980 military coup, a date that still rankles the separatists as well as groups on the left and right.

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