Sunday 17 November 2019

Turks believe Isil behind massacre at peace rally

Relatives cry as they mourn during the funeral yesterday for a victim of Saturday’s Ankara bomb attacks in Istanbul, Turkey. Photo: Burak Kara/Getty Images
Relatives cry as they mourn during the funeral yesterday for a victim of Saturday’s Ankara bomb attacks in Istanbul, Turkey. Photo: Burak Kara/Getty Images

Raziye Akkoc Ankara

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) is being treated as a prime suspect in Turkey's worst terror attack on a peace rally in Ankara that killed 97 people, the prime minister has said.

Ahmet Davutoglu said the extremist group was the country's "first priority" to investigate as he confirmed that the attacks were carried out by two suicide bombers.

"Looking at how the incident took place, we are probing Daesh as our first priority," Mr Davutoglu said, using the Arabic acronym for Isil.

"We are close to identifying one of the bombers," he said yesterday. He added that identifying the attackers would lead to the discovery of which group was behind the attack but insisted that officials were looking at other groups. Nearly 100 people were killed - more according to some estimates - during Saturday's attack on a peace rally in central Ankara and nearly 250 were injured.

Thousands had gathered near the city's main train station to call for an end to the fighting between the Turkish state and Kurdish guerrilla group, Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Mr Davutoglu told NTV television that PKK and the far-Left Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) remained "potential suspects".

"It would not be accurate to give an indication right now," he said.

Yesterday several victims' funerals were due to take place in Istanbul and Selahattin Demirtas, leader of the pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), was expected to attend.

This is the third bombing of Kurdish political rallies and civilians in recent months, all of which looked like the work of Isil, as Syria's civil war spills across the Turkish border.

However, the group, which is usually quick to boast of its atrocities, hasn't claimed responsibility for any of the bombings in Turkey, leaving the situation murky.

The bombing occurred in the midst of an election campaign, ahead of an unnecessary snap election that Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has set for November 1.

He called for the vote after failing to get a majority for his ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, in June's parliamentary election and discouraging efforts to form a coalition government. The electoral balance was tipped against Mr Erdogan by the Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party, or HDP, which won an unprecedented 13pc of the vote and whose leaders were at Saturday's rally. Erdogan is doing everything in his power to undermine those gains. 

The government has tried to use the war with the PKK, which rekindled after the June result, to discredit the Kurdish political party. It has accused the party's Kurdish legislators of conspiring with terrorists, launched criminal probes against them, and arrested hundreds of party activists. The response to Saturday's carnage was part of this political campaign.

Erdogan should bear a precedent in mind as he handles the fallout - the fate of Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, whose instant blaming of Basque terrorists after the 2004 bomb attacks in Madrid cost him re-election days later.

Spaniards saw through his attempt to steer attention away from the possibility that Islamists had carried out the bombing, in which 191 people died.

He feared voters would then link the attack to his decision to join the US-led invasion of Iraq.

Irish Independent

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