Monday 24 July 2017

Turkey on edge after massacre as state blamed for links to Isil

An armed men escorts the coffins of victims who were killed in Monday's bomb attack in Suruc, as they arrive to be buried in Istanbul
An armed men escorts the coffins of victims who were killed in Monday's bomb attack in Suruc, as they arrive to be buried in Istanbul
Turkish riot police clash with activists in Istanbul during protests at the government which is accused of not doing enough to stop Isil

Daren Butler in Istanbul

TURKEY claims that it has identified the suicide bomber responsible for the attack that killed 32 people in Suruc -but cannot yet prove that he was linked to Isil extremists.

Prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the authorities were probing the international and domestic connections of the man but refused to identify him any further. Local media said he was a man from the southeast of the country.

Neither Isil nor any other group has claimed responsibility for the attack near the Syrian border on Monday, which also left 100 people injured.

Officials believe the attack was retaliation for Turkey's recent steps against Isil militants.

Amid protests in Istanbul, Mr Davutoglu rejected accusations that Turkey had in the past tacitly supported Isil militants operating from Syria and had unwittingly opened the door to the deadly suicide bombing.

The blast on Monday tore through a group of university-aged students from an activist group as they gathered in Suruc ahead of a planned trip to help rebuild the nearby Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani.

Kobani has come under repeated assault from Islamic State and has been a rallying point for Turkey's Kurdish minority, who have been enraged by what they see as the refusal of President Tayyip Erdogan and the ruling AK Party (AKP) to intervene in a conflict played out within clear sight of Turkish military positions.

Thousands of foreign fighters have crossed through Turkey to join Isil over the past few years, fuelling accusations from the government's opponents that the state is turning a blind eye.

The US and other Western allies have also urged Turkey, a NATO member which shares a 900km border with Syria, to do more to tighten security on the frontier.

Anger among Kurds and their sympathisers has boiled over since the attack at Suruc.

Many of those killed were young Alevis, a minority community whose faith is a distinct branch of Islam and who were politicised during anti-government protests in 2013, according to one survivor. "

A mass funeral took place in Istanbul for most of the 32 activists killed in the attack. The bodies were then take to their home towns for burial.

Mourners wept and threw themselves on the coffins in the courtyard of a mosque.

The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade insurgency against the Turkish state, said the AKP bore responsibility for the bombing and accused it of backing Isil against Syria's Kurds.

In Istanbul, police fired tear gas and water cannon at protesters chanting "Murderer Islamic State, collaborator Erdogan and AKP". At a similar protest in the southern port city of Mersin an attacker opened fire, wounding two people.

Irish Independent

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