Turkey vows vengeance after Kurdish militants blamed for attack that killed 38

ISTANBUL, Dec 11 (Reuters) - Turkey on Sunday vowed vengeance against Kurdish militants it said were likely behind twin bombings that killed 38 people and wounded 155 in what appeared to be a coordinated attack on police outside a soccer stadium in Istanbul.

The blasts on Saturday night - a car bomb outside the Vodafone Arena, home to Istanbul's Besiktas soccer team, followed by a suicide bomb attack in an adjacent park less than a minute later - shook a nation still trying to recover from a series of deadly bombings this year in cities including Istanbul and the capital Ankara.

SEE EARLIER: Twin bombing outside Istanbul soccer stadium kills 29, wounds 166

There was no claim of responsibility, but Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu and other officials said early indications pointed to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has carried out a three-decade insurgency, mainly in Turkey's largely Kurdish southeast. Thirteen people have been detained.

"Sooner or later, we will have our vengeance. This blood will not be left on the ground, no matter what the price, what the cost," Soylu said in a speech at a funeral at the Istanbul police headquarters for five of the officers killed. President Tayyip Erdogan was present but did not speak, although he greeted and hugged some of the family members.

Soylu also warned those who would offer support to the attackers on social media or elsewhere, comments aimed at pro-Kurdish politicians the government accuses of having links to the PKK, which is designated as a terrorist organization by the United States, Europe and Turkey.

"To those trying to defend the perpetrators from podiums, over the media or internet, and trying to make up excuses. There is no excuse for this ... Know this: the blade of the state stretches far and wide."

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Bomb goes off near stadium in Istanbul
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Bomb goes off near stadium in Istanbul
Police arrive at the site of an explosion in central Istanbul, Turkey, December 10, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
Police arrive at the site of an explosion in central Istanbul, Turkey, December 10, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
Turkish policemen at the site of an explosion in central Istanbul, Turkey, December 10, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
A damaged vehicle is seen after a blast in Istanbul, Turkey, December 10, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
Police forensic experts examine the scene after a blast in Istanbul, Turkey, December 11, 2016. REUTERS/Osman Orsal.
Police extinguish a burning car using a water cannon after a blast in Istanbul, Turkey, December 10, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
Police arrive at the site of an explosion in central Istanbul, Turkey, December 10, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
An ambulance leaves the scene after a blast in Istanbul, Turkey, December 10, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
Police forensic experts examine the scene after a blast in Istanbul, Turkey, early December 11, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
A man looks on from a broken window in front of the scene after a blast in Istanbul, Turkey, December 11, 2016. REUTERS/Osman Orsal
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - DECEMBER 11 : Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (2nd R) and Turkish Health Minister Recep Akdag (R) visit the injured police officers at Bezmialem Hospital in Istanbul, Turkey on December 11, 2016. At least 38 people, including 7 civilians, were killed and 155 people were injured in two separate bomb attacks in the Besiktas district of Istanbul on December 10, 2016. (Photo by Kayhan Ozer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - DECEMBER 11 : Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visits the injured police officers at Bezmialem Hospital in Istanbul, Turkey on December 11, 2016. At least 38 people, including 7 civilians, were killed and 155 people were injured in two separate bomb attacks in the Besiktas district of Istanbul on December 10, 2016. (Photo by Kayhan Ozer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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In recent months, thousands of Kurdish politicians have been detained including dozens of mayors and the leaders of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), parliament's second-biggest opposition party, accused of links to the PKK.

The crackdown against Kurdish politicians has coincided with widespread purges of state institutions following a failed coup in July that the government blames on followers of a U.S.-based Muslim cleric. Turkey says the measures are necessary to defend its security. Rights groups and some Western allies accuse it of ignoring the rule of law and trampling on freedoms.

In a statement, the pro-Kurdish HDP condemned the attack and urged the government to end what it called the language and politics of "polarization, hostility and conflict."

RIOT POLICE AND PARK

Soylu, the interior minister, said the first explosion, which came around two hours after the match between Besiktas and Bursaspor, was at an assembly point for riot police. The second came as police surrounded the suicide bomber in the nearby Macka park.

Thirty-eight people died, including 30 police and seven civilians, he said. One person remained unidentified.

A total of 155 people were being treated in hospital, with 14 of them in intensive care and five in surgery, Health Minister Recep Akdag told a news conference.

Flags flew at half mast, and Sunday was declared a day of national mourning. A march against terrorism had been called in Istanbul.

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Funerals for victims of Istanbul car bombing
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Funerals for victims of Istanbul car bombing
Turkish police officers carry the coffins of a comrade during a funeral cerenomy at Istanbul's police headquarters on December 11, 2016, a day after twin bombings. Turkey declared a day of national mourning after twin bombings killed 38 people near a football stadium in Istanbul and said Kurdish militants appeared to have staged the attacks. A car bomb detonated outside the home stadium of football giants Besiktas after a Super Lig match between Besiktas and Bursaspor, and less than a minute later a suicide attacker blew himself up near a group of police at a nearby park. / AFP / OZAN KOSE (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - DECEMBER 11 : Relatives of martyrs of Istanbul terror attacks attend a funeral ceremony at Istanbul Police Department headquarters in Istanbul, Turkey on December 11, 2016. At least 38 people, including 7 civilians, were killed and 155 people were injured in two separate bomb attacks in the Besiktas district of Istanbul on December 10, 2016. (Photo by Arif Hudaverdi Yaman/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - DECEMBER 11: Turkish national flag flies at half mast at Otagtepe during a day of national mourning after the terror attacks near the Vodafone Arena in Istanbul's Besiktas, Turkey on December 11, 2016. At least 38 people, including 7 civilians, were killed and 155 people were injured in two separate bomb attacks in the Besiktas district of Istanbul on Saturday. (Photo by Veli Gurgah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - DECEMBER 11: People carry the flag-draped coffins of police officers killed in yesterday's blast on December 11, 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey. According to Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, at least 38 people were killed and 166 other wounded in twin explosions outside Besiktas FC's Vodafone Arena Stadium and in nearby Macka Park a few hours after the night's soccer match on 10 December. The bombs apparently targeted police officers who were securing the match. (Photo by Daghan Kozanoglu/Getty Images)
A woman holds Turkish flag in front of Fatih Mosque before funeral of police officers killed in Saturday's blasts in Istanbul, Turkey, December 11, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, President Tayyip Erdogan and Former President Abdullah Gul pray during a ceremony for police officers killed in Saturday's blasts in Istanbul, Turkey, December 11, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
Relatives mourn next to a coffin of a Turkish police officer killed in Saturday's blasts in Istanbul, Turkey, December 11, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
Turkish police officers stand by coffins of a fellow officers during a ceremony for policmen killed in Saturday's blasts in Istanbul, Turkey, December 11, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - DECEMBER 11 : Relatives of martyrs of Istanbul terror attacks attend a funeral ceremony at Istanbul Police Department headquarters in Istanbul, Turkey on December 11, 2016. At least 38 people, including 7 civilians, were killed and 155 people were injured in two separate bomb attacks in the Besiktas district of Istanbul on December 10, 2016. (Photo by Arif Hudaverdi Yaman/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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President Erdogan canceled a planned trip to Kazakhstan, his office said. Erdogan had earlier described the blasts as a terrorist attack on police and civilians. He said the aim of the bombings, after a match attended by thousands, had been to cause maximum casualties.

"Nobody should doubt that with God's will, we as a country and a nation will overcome terror, terrorist organizations ... and the forces behind them," he said in a statement.

Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said Turkey's allies should show solidarity with it in the fight against terrorism, a reference to disagreements with fellow NATO member Washington over Syria policy. The United States backs the Syrian Kurdish YPG in the fight against Islamic State. Turkey says the militia is an extension of the PKK and a terrorist group.

In addition to the Kurdish insurgency, Turkey is battling Islamic State as a member of the U.S.-led coalition against the jihadist group. Less than a week ago, Islamic State urged its supporters to target Turkey's "security, military, economic and media establishment."

'MY SON WAS MASSACRED'

Video purported to show the father of one of the victims, a 19-year-old medical student who had been in Istanbul for a weekend visit, went viral on social media in Turkey.

"I don't want my son to be a martyr, my son was massacred," the footage showed the father saying. "His goal was to be a doctor and help people like this, but now I am carrying him back in a funeral car."

Security remained tight in Istanbul, with police helicopters buzzing overhead in the Besiktas district near the stadium.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg condemned what he described as "horrific acts of terror," while European leaders also sent messages of solidarity. The United States condemned the attack and said it stood with its NATO ally.

The bombings come five months after Turkey was shaken by a failed military coup, in which more than 240 people were killed, many of them in Istanbul, as rogue soldiers commandeered tanks and fighter jets in a bid to seize power.

Istanbul has seen several other attacks this year, including in June, when around 45 people were killed and hundreds wounded as three suspected Islamic State militants carried out a gun and bomb attack on its main Ataturk airport.

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