Friday 9 December 2016

Child 'blew himself up for Isil', killing scores

Wedding suicide bomber was 12, says Turkey

Zia Weise

Published 22/08/2016 | 02:30

Graves are prepared for the victims of the suicide bombing at a wedding in Gaziantep, Turkey. Photo: Reuters
Graves are prepared for the victims of the suicide bombing at a wedding in Gaziantep, Turkey. Photo: Reuters
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Ambulances arrive at the site of the massive explosion. Photo: Getty
A man weeps as he carries a coffin. Photo: Getty Images

A boy thought to be just 12 killed at least 51 people when he blew himself up at a Turkish wedding party, in the deadliest of a series of terrorist atrocities to hit the country this year.

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Authorities blamed the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) for the attack on street revellers in the southern city of Gaziantep late on Saturday night.

"Initial evidence suggests it was a Daesh attack," said Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, during a visit to Gaziantep after the attack. 'Daesh' is an Arabic term for Isil.

Mr Erdogan said at least 69 people were wounded, 17 of them "heavily". A prosecutor said the remains of a suicide vest had been found at the scene.

The bomb exploded in the city's predominantly Kurdish Akdere neighbourhood, where several hundred guests were dancing in the street at an outdoor pre-wedding celebration.

"The celebrations were coming to an end and there was a big explosion among people dancing," said 25-year-old Veli Can. "There were blood and body parts everywhere." The bride and groom were among those hurt but their injuries were not serious, Turkish media reported.

"We couldn't see anything. Nothing but body parts," the groom's brother Sukru Akdogan said.

Television footage showed white sheets covering dozens of bodies at the scene before forensic teams arrived.

Gulser Ates, who was wounded in the attack, said she had been talking to one of her neighbours when the bomb exploded.

"I don't know what happened. The only thing I know is that my neighbour died on top of me," she said.

"If she had not fallen on me, I would have died, too. Her body saved me."

Turkish authorities imposed a temporary blackout on coverage of the attack yesterday.

Isil has carried out a string of bombings in major Turkish cities. Besides bombings at symbolic sites, it has previously sought out Kurdish targets - including its deadliest attack on Turkish soil at a predominantly Kurdish peace rally Ankara last October - in an apparent bid to inflame tensions.

Saturday's attack is the first since the failed July 15 coup attempt. The last attack was in June, when more than 40 people were killed in a triple suicide bombing at Istanbul's main airport.

Condemning Saturday's attack, Mr Erdogan said: "Our country and nation only have a single message to those who attack us: you will not succeed."

Naming Isil as the "likely perpetrator", Mr Erdogan added that the attackers were trying to "provoke people by abusing ethnic and sectarian sensitiveness".

Mr Erdogan added that he saw no difference between Isil and followers of Fethullah Gulen, the US-based cleric accused of orchestrating last month's coup attempt, or the PKK, the Kurdish militant group which has also carried out attacks across Turkey in recent months.

Mehmet Simsek, the country's deputy prime minister and the MP for Gaziantep, told Turkish media that the death toll may rise further.

"The aim of terror is to scare the people, but we will not allow this," he added. "It is barbaric to attack a wedding."

The HDP, a pro-Kurdish party, said the attack was designed to thwart recently announced plans by militant groups including the PKK to attempt to negotiate an end to a three-decade conflict with the Turkish government.

Gaziantep lies close to the Syrian border and Isil has carried out attacks in the city before, including the assassinations of several Syrian opposition journalists reporting on the group's atrocities.

The jihadist group has suffered a series of battlefield setbacks in Syria recently, culminating in the liberation of the northern city of Manbij by the American-backed Syrian Defence Forces last week.

Turkey is still reeling from last month's abortive military coup, which left at least 240 people dead. Tens of thousands of people were arrested or suspended from their jobs in a subsequent crackdown against suspected sympathisers of the plotters. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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