Holiday Britons defy the bombers
By Catriona Davies

(Filed: 29/08/2006)

Britons continued to fly out to Turkey on holiday last night despite the fifth bomb aimed at tourists in less than 24 hours.

Tour operators said that holidays were going ahead "as normal" and the Foreign Office did not alter its threat level or advise against travel.

The scene in Antalya after the bomb that killed three people and injured at least 20. It came 24 hours after an explosion in Marmaris

The latest bomb exploded in the south-western resort of Antalya, on the Mediterranean, killing three people and injuring at least 20.

Late on Sunday three blasts wounded 27 people, including 10 Britons, in the nearby resort of Marmaris and another injured six Turks in Istanbul.

The Kurdish separatist group Tak, or the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons, a small organisation linked to the main Kurdish guerrilla group PKK, claimed responsibility for the Marmaris and Istanbul attacks.

Its website said: "Turkey is not a safe country. Tourists should not come to Turkey."

The injured Britons include a seven-year-old boy, a 13-year-old girl and a woman of 73. Four were seriously injured and had to have surgery, although none of their injuries was said to be life-threatening.

The injuries in Marmaris, one of Turkey's most popular resorts with Britons, were all caused by a bomb placed under the seat of a tourist minibus. The other explosions, in rubbish bins on the main boulevard, caused shock and fear but no injuries.

The explosion in Antalya shortly before 5pm local time was in a market near the city centre. Residents said that one of the dead was a pastry vendor and that tourists were among the injured.

Witnesses said a loud explosion shattered windows, ripped the facade off a building and started a fire.

Two people died instantly and a third later in hospital. Several foreigners, including a German, a Jordanian, two Iranians, four Israelis and a Russian, were believed to be among the injured.

Antalya is the biggest city on the country's Mediterranean coast, with a population of about a million. It is popular with tourists but is also a busy port.

Police said they had foiled a major attack on the port of Izmir, on the Aegean coast, with the arrest of a suspected member of PKK. They said that accomplices and plastic explosives had also been seized.

Turkey is becoming an ever more popular destination for holidaymakers and attracted almost 1.8 million last year. About 14,000 Britons are on package tours in Marmaris at present and the vast majority intends to stay. Only a handful was reported to be planning to return home early.

The Federation of Tour Operators said: "Members are not reporting customers wishing to return early in any great numbers. People are leaving for Turkey today with information about what is happening. Holidays are continuing as normal."

Keith Betton, of the Association of British Travel Agents, said that almost all the tourists booked to travel to Turkey yesterday had done so.

"This shows that people do not let this kind of incident affect them in the way that they perhaps would have done 10 years ago," he said.

Asked why it had not warned holidaymakers not to go, the Foreign Office said there had been a terrorist threat in Turkey for some time. While recent events had been "appalling", the threat was "not at a level that we would advise against travel".

Eight Britons injured in Marmaris remained in hospital with injuries burn and shrapnel wounds. A man and a woman from Coventry, aged 38 and 44, were discharged.

Louis Beckford and his grandmother, Suzanna Beckford, from Birmingham, were among the injured, as was Louis's cousin Alex.