Turkish Official Says TNT Used in Kurdish Rally Blasts

June 6, 2015 Updated: June 6, 2015

ANKARA, Turkey—Turkish police have determined that at least one of the lethal explosions at a Kurdish party rally this week was from TNT, and that both explosions involved “cellphone mechanisms,” a government minister said Saturday. Two people were killed.

The blasts came at a tense time as Turkey holds parliamentary elections on Sunday in which the Kurdish votes will be crucial in determining whether the ruling party gets the supermajority it seeks.

Agriculture Minister Mehdi Eker, who is from Diyarbakir where the explosions occurred on Friday, said 80 people, including two policemen, were being treated in hospitals.

Most were not in serious condition and were being treated for cuts, blows and shrapnel wounds. Eight people were in serious condition and had been operated on, Eker said.

Initial reports had said that electrical equipment had exploded, but Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in comments published Saturday that the two explosions were acts of sabotage and provocation.

Davutoglu’s ruling AKP party wants a large majority that would allow it to change Turkey’s constitution and transfer the prime minister’s executive powers to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a new presidential system. If the Kurdish party, HDP, gets a minimum 10 percent of the votes required to take seats in parliament, it would effectively block that possibility.

Following the explosions on Friday, Erdogan said he tried calling Selahattin Demirtas, the leader of HDP to express condolences and condemn the attack, but that Demirtas had not taken his calls.

On Saturday, Demirtas said that Erdogan had not uttered “a single word about that savage attack” in a speech after the explosions.

“He may have tried to reach me, but whether he reached me or not is not important,” Demirtas said.

The HDP campaign has been the target of other attacks, including bombings at two local party headquarters which injured six people last month. The HDP has accused Erdogan of making the party a target by constantly speaking against it in the campaign.

Erdogan has also been attacking the foreign media. On Saturday, not for the first time, his barbs took an anti-Semitic turn as he lashed out against The New York Times and other foreign publications for criticisms of him.

“The New York Times which is published in the United States,” he said. “Their owners are known. Unfortunately, it’s the Jewish capital.”

Late in the campaign, Erdogan has also responded indignantly to opposition criticism of a tangible symbol of his drive to build up the presidency: the lavish 1,150-room presidential palace which he built as prime minister and now occupies as president.

Complaining that cockroaches infested his old office, Erdogan said: “There can be no question of waste where representation is concerned.”

Opposition parties have made Erdogan’s spending on the palace a theme of their campaigning in the run-up to Sunday’s parliamentary elections, forcing him on the defensive. Last week, he denied that the palace had gold-plated toilet seats.

Erdogan moved into the vast structure after he was elected president in August. The former presidential palace was given to the prime minister.