Sunday 19 January 2020

Turkey vows action to 'cleanse' border of IS after wedding attack

Mourners carry a victim's coffin as they attend funeral services for dozens of people killed in the bomb attack in Gaziantep (AP)
Mourners carry a victim's coffin as they attend funeral services for dozens of people killed in the bomb attack in Gaziantep (AP)

Turkey's foreign minister has insisted his country is determined to fight Islamic State extremists both inside its own borders and in Syria, after a youth killed at least 53 people when he blew himself up at a Kurdish wedding party.

The death toll from Sunday's attack increased to 53 overnight after two more people died in hospital, and officials said at least 22 of the victims were children aged under 14.

Nearly 70 other people were injured in the attack in the south-eastern Turkish city of Gaziantep, near the border with Syria.

Foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey will provide every kind of support that may be necessary to "cleanse" the border area of the extremists.

No group has said it was behind the bombing, but officials have said it appears to have been the work of the Islamic State group as they accused it of trying to destabilise Turkey by exploiting ethnic and religious tensions.

It was the deadliest attack in Turkey this year and a uthorities are still trying to identify the attacker, who President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said was aged between 12 and 14.

Responding to a question on reports that Turkish-backed Syrian opposition forces may launch an operation to free an IS-held town from Turkish territory, Mr Cavusoglu said: "Our border has to be cleansed of Daesh (IS) and whatever support is necessary, we will provide it.

"(IS) martyred our... citizens. It is natural for us to struggle against such an organisation both inside and outside of Turkey."

Mr Cavusoglu said Turkey had become a main target for the IS group because of measures it has implemented to stop recruits from crossing into Syria to join the fighting, as well as hundreds of arrests of IS suspects in Turkey.

The deadly attack also came amid ongoing struggles between the government and Kurdish militants linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, known as the PKK, and as the country is still reeling from the aftermath of last month's failed coup attempt, which the government has blamed on US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen and his followers.

The suicide bombing follows a June attack on Istanbul's main airport where IS suspects killed 44 people. A dual suicide bombing blamed on IS at a peace rally in the capital Ankara in October killed 103 people.

The pro-Kurdish political party HDP condemned the attack on the wedding, which it said was attended by many of its party members.


PA Media

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