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Turkish man arrested with fake bomb outside PM's office

21 November 2013, 15:43

Ankara - Turkish police arrested a "mentally unstable" man carrying a fake bomb outside the office of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday, officials said, causing a security scare in the capital.

Local television stations had initially reported that police had shot and wounded the suspect but officials and witnesses later said they wrestled him to the ground and only fired shots in the air.

"This individual was carrying a device resembling a bomb but in fact it was not one," Interior Minister Muammer Guler told reporters, describing him as "mentally unstable".

Erdogan was at the headquarters of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) at the time and not in his office.

"The man, who is being interrogated by police, himself warned us about his arrival five minutes beforehand and our men were ready to seize him," Guler added.

"It's nothing serious."

Security was nevertheless boosted around the building in the Kizilay district in the heart of Ankara, and a police helicopter was seen hovering overhead.

Police identified the man as 52-year-old Tugrul Bayir, but gave no further information.

Ramazan Bal, head of the prime ministry security guard, denied that the suspect was shot.

"There is no suicide bomb. You'll see the man is uninjured when he stands before court tomorrow (Friday)," he told reporters.

A witness said the suspect was wearing a corset around his waist carrying some type of cement with cables attached as well as a black box.

"Security guards fired five or six times into the air. They didn't shoot him," the witness told AFP.

Police had initially asked the 52-year-old suspect to show some proof of identity as he approached the building and when he refused they threw themselves on him, local television reported.

Erdogan, who has been prime minister for 11 years but has become an increasingly polarising figure in Turkey, is due to leave later Thursday for a visit to Moscow.

The conflict in neighbouring Syria is expected to top the agenda of Erdogan's talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on his two-day visit.

Turkey is a vociferous opponent of President Bashar al-Assad's regime and hosts the Syrian opposition, while Russia is Damascus's main ally.

In the past, Kurdish rebels or extreme left-wing groups have claimed attacks in Turkish cities.

In February this year, a Turkish security guard was killed and several people injured in a suicide bombing outside the highly-fortified US embassy in Ankara.

The attack was claimed by radical Marxist group the Revolutionary People's Liberation Front (DHKP-C)



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