Tuesday 24 October 2017

Turkey targets Isil over blasts as thousands rally at scene

Family members of Korkmaz Tedik, a victim of Saturday’s bomb blasts, mourn over his coffin during a funeral ceremony in Ankara
Family members of Korkmaz Tedik, a victim of Saturday’s bomb blasts, mourn over his coffin during a funeral ceremony in Ankara
A man comforts a victim after the blast

Orhan Coskun

Turkey is targeting Isil in its investigation of a double suicide bombing in Ankara that killed up to 128 people.

However, opponents of President Tayyip Erdogan blamed him for the worst such attack in Turkish history.

Thousands of people gathered near the scene of the attack at Ankara's main railway station, many accusing Mr Erdogan of stirring nationalist sentiment by his pursuit of a military campaign against Kurdish militants, a charge Ankara vehemently rejects.

"Murderer Erdogan", "murderer police", the crowd chanted in Sihhiye square, as riot police backed by water cannon vehicles blocked a main highway leading to the district where parliament and government buildings are located.

The pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), a major presence at Saturday's march and which holds seats in parliament, said police attacked its leaders and members as they tried to leave carnations at the scene. Some were hurt in the melee, it said in a statement.

The bombs struck seconds apart on Saturday as crowds gathered for a planned march to protest over the deaths of hundreds since the collapse in July of a ceasefire between security forces and the rebel Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is deemed a terrorist group by the United States and the EU as well as Turkey.

The attacks have shocked a nation beset by resurgent conflict with the PKK in its southeast and increasingly threatened by spillover from the war in neighbouring Syria. Isil fighters are encamped close to its borders, which mark also the frontier of the Nato alliance, and last week Russia launched air strikes in Syria, its planes violating Turkish air space on several occasions.

Two senior security sources said initial signs suggested Isil was behind the Ankara attack, and that it bore striking similarity to a July suicide bombing in Suruc near the Syrian border, also blamed on the radical Islamists.

"All signs indicate that the attack may have been carried out by Isil. We are completely focused on Isil," one source said.

CHP opposition leader Ahmet Kilicdaroglu, speaking after a meeting with Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, said he had been told both suicide bombers were men. State-run Anadolu Agency said police detained 43 suspects in operations targeting Isil across Turkey, from Sanliurfa in the southeast to Izmir in the west and Antalya on the south coast.

Turkey is vulnerable to infiltration by Isil, which holds swathes of Syrian land abutting Turkey, where some two million refugees live. But the group, not normally reticent about its attacks, made no claim to the Suruc bombing and has made no reference to the Ankara attack in internet postings

The HDP, which expanded beyond its Kurdish voter base and drew in mainly left-wing opponents of Mr Erdogan at June elections, said the death toll had risen to 128 and that it had identified all but eight of the bodies.

Questions have been raised over whether a parliamentary election due on November 1 can now be safely held.

Mr Davutoglu, exposing a mosaic of domestic political perils, said on Saturday that Isil, Kurdish militant factions or far-leftist radicals could all have carried out Saturday's bombing.

Irish Independent

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