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Turkey detains 18 people over Izmir car bombing attack

Police in Turkey have detained 18 people in connection with a car bombing that killed two people outside a courthouse in the western city of Izmir. The government has accused the outlawed PKK of staging the attack.

Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said Friday there was no doubt Kurdish militants "gave the orders" for the assault.

A police officer and a court employee were killed in Thursday's attack when assailants detonated an explosives-laden car at a roadblock in front of Izmir's main court building. Two suspected militants were shot dead in the ensuing firefight with police.

According to officials, the attackers were armed with automatic rifles, rocket launchers and hand grenades.

Scene of blast in Izmir (Reuters/T. Dersinlioglu)

Authorities say the weapons seized from attackers at the scene suggested they were planning a much larger attack

Speaking before thousands of people at a memorial service for the slain police officer, Bozdag said the two assailants killed by police had been identified and efforts were underway to track down their accomplices. He said 18 people had been rounded up.

"All the information we have obtained shows it was the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) terrorist organization who gave instructions for the attack and that the terrorists were from the PKK," he said.

Watch video 00:30

Deadly bombing in Turkish city of Izmir

Turkey a target

No group has claimed responsibility for Thursday's explosion. The blast follows a string of violent attacks carried out either by militants from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) or the "Islamic State" (IS) extremist group in Turkey over the past 18 months.

It came less than a week after a gunman shot dead 39 people at an Istanbul nightclub in the early hours of New Year's Day. That attack was claimed by "IS," which said it was revenge for NATO member Turkey's role in the US-led coalition fighting "IS" militants in Syria.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday said unidentified forces were launching attacks on his country in an attempt to halt Turkey's rise.

"Unfortunately, the hordes of bloodthirsty murderers released on Turkey are continuing their attacks in open cooperation," Erdogan told crowds in the city of Sanliurfa, near the border with Syria. He also vowed to press on with the offensive in Syria until the key towns of al Bab and Manbij "have been purged of terrorist organizations."

nm/se (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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