As the death toll from a deadly suicide bombing - which took place late on Saturday at a wedding party in the southern Turkish town of Gaziantep, near the southern border with Syria - rose to 51, with another 69 wounded of whom 17 were critical, Turkey's president Erdogan issued a statement denouncing the "heinous" bombing and saying that IS was "the most likely perpetrator of the Gaziantep attack." This was the deadliest attack in Turkey so far this year.
The remains of a suicide vest were recovered at the site, according to the state-run Anadolu Agency, with president Erdogan later adding that the perpetrator was a child between the ages of 12 and 14 year, whose bomb was remotely or self-detonated.
— ANADOLU AGENCY (ENG) (@anadoluagency) August 21, 2016
Erdo?an: ISIS likely behind Gaziantep bombing, 51 lives lost, suicide bomber aged 12-14, remotely or self detonated pic.twitter.com/BvTOht59tl
— CNN Türk ENG (@CNNTURK_ENG) August 21, 2016
The bride and groom survived the attack, however the groom did suffer injuries, a local official said, as cited by Reuters. “The celebrations were coming to an end and there was a big explosion among people dancing,” 25-year-old Veli Can said, according to Reuters. “There was blood and body parts everywhere.”
Taking advantage of the attack to further his domestic agenda, Erdogan said there was “absolutely no difference” between the Islamic State, Kurdish rebels in the southeast of Turkey or Gulen’s supporters, saying they are all terrorist organizations. “These bloodthirsty organizations and the powers behind them have neither the will nor power to silence the calls to prayer, lower the flag, divide our motherland and break up our nation,” he said, as cited by AP.
Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek, who is in Gaziantep, said that Ankara would not “yield” to the terrorists. “This is a massacre of unprecedented cruelty and barbarism,” he told reporters. “We ... are united against all terror organizations. They will not yield.” The prime minister said the attack had turned “a wedding party into a place of mourning” and said that Turkey would triumph against these “devilish” attacks.
Opposition parties have also denounced the attack. The main opposition Republican People's Party will be holding an emergency meeting in the late afternoon and a delegation was being sent to Gaziantep by the Nationalist Movement Party. Supporters of the pro-Kurdish People's Democracy Party will be holding a protest against the attack in Istanbul.
Foreign governments, including the U.S., Sweden, Greece, France, Bahrain, Qatar and Jordan, have condemned the attack.
Cited by AP, a bus driver who shuttled some of the guests from Siirt to Gaziantep said that he couldn't believe the party was targeted. "This was a wedding party. Just a regular wedding party," Hamdullah Ceyhan told Anadolu. "This attack was deplorable. How did they do such a thing?"
As AP adds, Turkey has been rocked by a wave of attacks in the past year that have either been claimed by Kurdish militants linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party — known by its acronym PKK — or were blamed on IS. In June, suspected IS militants attacked Istanbul's main airport with guns and bombs, killing 44 people. A dual suicide bombing blamed on IS at a peace rally in Turkey's capital, Ankara, in October killed 103 victims.
Earlier this week, a string of bombings blamed on the PKK that targeted police and soldiers killed at least a dozen people. A fragile, 2 ½ yearlong peace process between the PKK and the government collapsed last year, leading to a resumption of the three-decade-long conflict. The attack comes a month after a failed coup attempt against Erdogan. He has accused the US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen and his supporters of being behind the attempted power grab. As a result, Turkey's crackdown on Erdogan's political opponents, many of whom have been painted with broad terrorist brushes, will likely accelerate in the coming days.
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