(photo credit: AP)
Turkish authorities said they thwarted a bombing, possibly timed to coincide with the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, as police defused a 300-kilogram (660-pound) bomb found Tuesday on a minibus parked near an Ankara market.
Turkey, an ally of the United States in the fight against terrorism, has increased security on the anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
Sniffer dogs alerted their handlers to a blue minibus at a multistory parking lot early Tuesday, meters (yards) away from an open food market. Its license plate had been stolen from another vehicle, and the owner had tipped off the police about it, the state-run Anatolia news agency said.
"A possible disaster has been prevented," Gov. Kemal Onal told reporters.
Anatolia reported that a witness said an unidentified man had parked the minibus at around 6 a.m. (0300GMT), saying he was bringing goods to sell at the market.
Police evacuated houses and cordoned off the area while explosives experts took three hours to defuse the bomb, Police Chief Ercument Yilmaz said.
Yilmaz did not reveal the nature of the bomb. But Turkish media, citing other police sources, said that sacks of explosives had been found, speculating that it could have been ammonium nitrate or cheap fertilizer, ingredients sometimes used to make bombs.
Suicide bombers linked to al-Qaida hit Istanbul in 2003 with truck bombs containing ammonium nitrate-based bombs, killing 58 people in attacks that targeted two synagogues, the British Consulate and a British bank. In February, a court sentenced seven people to life in prison for the bombings.
Turkey, a predominantly Muslim but secular country is an important NATO ally. It supports US operations in Afghanistan and Iraq through the Incirlik Air Base in the southern part of the country - one of the most important US military bases in the region.
A suicide bombing in one of Ankara's busiest markets killed six people in May and wounded dozens more. The bombing was blamed on the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, but the group denied involvement.
The rebel group seeks autonomy for Turkey's Kurds. Tens of thousands of people have been killed during its fight against government forces since 1984.
"Ankara's Sept. 11 has been prevented," private NTV television said on its Web site on Tuesday.