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Turkey beefs up security before Bush visit, NATO summit

Updated:
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) _ Turkish navy commandos patrolled the Bosporus Strait as part of a massive security operation before President Bush's scheduled arrival Saturday. Turkish police sealed streets and detained scores of people after a spate of bombings put the country on alert.

A small bomb attached to a banner protesting the NATO summit and Bush's visit went off in downtown Istanbul on Saturday, but no one was hurt. A false report of a bomb blast Saturday morning caused confusion briefly until officials clarified it had been a gas explosion in a hotel in southern Turkey.

Aiming to stem the wave of bombings blamed on militant leftists, Turkish police have detained scores of alleged members of illegal groups linked to al-Qaida, including 10 on Saturday and 40 on Friday. Police also seized three guns, a hand grenade and bomb-making manuals in Saturday's operation in the central city of Konya, Anatolia reported.

Turkish navy commandos, wearing helmets and manning machine guns, patrolled in zodiac boats through the waters of the Bosporus Strait , dividing Istanbul _ where the NATO summit starts Monday.

Two confirmed small bomb blasts overnight caused minor damage but no injuries in the southern city of Adana, and police defused a remote-controlled bomb placed under a car in the Black Sea port town of Zonguldak, semiofficial Anatolia news agency said. Twin bombings killed four people two days ago.

Police sealed off streets in Istanbul, searched cars and blew up suspicious packages, including one on Saturday, as part of the security operation.

More than 23,000 officers will be on duty during the summit, to be attended by leaders of NATO countries, including Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac.

Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul said Friday there was ``no situation present that would affect the NATO meeting.''

Around the Istanbul convention center where the NATO summit will take place, police have installed dark-blue steel barricades.

On Thursday, an explosion injured three people outside the Ankara hotel where Bush is expected to stay, and another killed four and injured 14 on an Istanbul bus.

``Such incidents have a negative effect on our country and our future,'' Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday.

Istanbul Gov. Muammer Guler said Friday the bomber in the Istanbul attack was a 29-year-old woman who was a member of a far-left-wing militant group, which he did not name. The woman, who was wanted in connection with two previous attacks, died in the attack, apparently when the bomb accidentally detonated.

Militant leftists appeared to be behind both bombings, authorities said. Militant Kurdish, Islamic and leftist groups are active in the country, and security in Istanbul has been of special concern since November, when four suicide truck bombings blamed on al-Qaida killed more than 60 people.

Authorities on Friday questioned seven people suspected of links to the banned leftist group DHKP-C in Izmit, some 60 miles outside Istanbul, Anatolia said.

Saturday's false report of a bomb blast in southern Turkey caused brief confusion among the media and police. Private CNN-Turk quickly corrected its report, which had said a suspected terrorist and three others were injured in a premature bomb explosion at the Hatipoglu Hotel in the Mediterranean resort town of Alanya. Instead, the blast was caused by a gas leak in an air conditioner at the hotel.

Guzide Ormeci, a spokeswoman for the governor's office in southern Antalya province, said one person died in the explosion. Anatolia identified the victim as a female Turkish tourist.
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