Hundreds of mourners gathered in the south-eastern Turkish city of Gaziantep on Sunday to bury victims of a suspected suicide bombing that struck a wedding celebration.
At least 50 people were killed and nearly 70 injured in the blast, which Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdo?an, blamed on Islamic State and said had been carried out by a child of between 12 and 14 years old who either detonated [the bomb] or others detonated it.
Condemning the attack, which was the deadliest to hit Turkey this year, Erdo?an said any strategy meant to incite the citizens against each other along ethnic and religious lines will not work.
Mahmut To?rul, a local MP, said the wedding guests were largely supporters of his pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic party (HDP).
This was not a random target and not just any wedding, he told the Guardian. Most of the people celebrating at the wedding were HDP supporters. People came together to celebrate, they were defenceless. [Isis] has always targeted civilians, but we need to see this attack as a revenge attack on Kurds.
Isis, which has not claimed the attack – historically it has not claimed attacks in Turkey – has recently lost swaths of territory in northern Syria to Syrian-Kurdish fighters. Some analysts as well as locals have pointed to this as possible motivation for attacks against Kurds.
Metin Gurcan, a security analyst, said: This is the first Isis attack targeting ethnically aware and politically active Kurds at a purely civilian occasion, a wedding. We know very well to what extent wedding attacks can sow disorder in a nation’s social fabric from [experience] in Afghanistan.
Isis has been trying to exploit ethnic and sectarian fault lines in Gaziantep both to retaliate against the advancement of Syrian Kurds in the north of Syria and against Turkey’s attack against Isis targets inside Syria.
Nazi?m Da?tan, a local journalist, described a scene of devastation in the neighbourhood of ?ahinbey after the blast hit at about 10.50pm on Saturday. There were so many dead people. There were body parts, he said. A wedding really is the last place that one would expect an attack on – it’s horrifying. It seems clear that this was yet another Isis attack in Gaziantep.
The bomb was reported to have exploded as wedding guests spilled out into the streets after the traditional henna night party, when guests have their hands and feet painted. One witness, Veli Can, said: The celebrations were coming to an end and there was a big explosion among people dancing. There was blood and body parts everywhere.
Children including a three-month-old baby were among the dead, witnesses told Reuters. To?rul said identifying those killed was taking time because many victims were children without ID cards.
Neither the bride nor groom is understood to have been killed or seriously injured in the attack. The bride was quoted by the state-run Anadolu news agency as declaring: They turned our wedding into a bloodbath.
On Sunday as some of the first funerals were held, shouts of shame on you, Erdo?an were reportedly heard, and mourners hurled water bottles at police.
There has been a string of deadly attacks in Turkey in the past year that were either blamed on Isis or claimed by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK) and its radical offshoot, the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK). In June, suspected Isis militants attacked Atatürk airport in Istanbul, killing at least 47 people.
The latest blast comes a month after a military coup attempt blamed by the Turkish government on a network linked to the US-based cleric Fethullah Gülen.
Speaking on television, the deputy prime minister, Mehmet ?im?ek, said: This was a barbaric attack. It appears to be a suicide attack. All terror groups, the PKK, Daesh, the [Gülen movement] are targeting Turkey. But God willing, we will overcome.
To?rul said the Isis threat had been ignored by the Turkish government. We have said for years that Isis was active in Gaziantep. This danger has been present for a long time, but unfortunately we never succeeded in convincing the government of this, he said. The necessary precautions were not taken.
Turkish media reported that local Isis cells had previously considered an attack on a wedding of PKK supporters in Gaziantep. Yunus Durmaz, an alleged former head of an Isis cell in Turkey and said to be one of the planners of the twin suicide bomb attacks on a peace rally in Ankara in October 2015 that killed at least 100 people, had suggested such an assault to an Isis contact inside Syria, according to the Turkish daily Gazete Duvar, citing an indictment.
Durmaz killed himself during a police raid in Gaziantep on 19 May, and Turkish police were able to secure evidence of his communications from his computer. Analysts have long warned of the presence of an extensive Isis network in the city, which is 29 miles (46km) north of the Syrian border.
Akif Ekici, an MP for the main opposition Republican People’s party (CHP), told Turkish media there was a serious intelligence deficiency and the government should work together with the opposition to prevent further attacks.
The Turkish government urged people not to let recent attacks divide them. Today is a day of unity and togetherness, said the prime minister, Binali Y?ld?r?m. We stand united with our citizens, from the youngest to the oldest, against terrorism. Our pain is immense, but everyone should be assured that our unity and togetherness will spoil these devilish plans in our country and abroad.
Gurcan urged the Turkish government to rethink its security strategy. Turkey desperately needs a new security policy and approach, he said. Ankara is making a strategic mistake [by] putting the PKK, Isis and the Fethullah Gülen terror organisation in the same basket, by saying that [these groups] are mere instruments used by foreign powers trying to destabilise Turkey.
This approach … underestimates their agency and causes the failure of tailoring an actor-specific counter-strategy.
Selahattin Demirta?, co-leader of the HDP, said: Let’s stand together for the condolences. There is no such thing as your funeral or my funeral. There are only our funerals.
I call on all our MP friends from the AKP, the [Nationalist Movement party] MHP and the CHP in Gaziantep. Come and let’s stand together for the condolences. Let’s unite our pain, let’s show those who turn our weddings into funerals, who turn our weddings into bloodbaths, that we stand as one. After that, everything else will be easy, there will be no problem we won’t be able to solve.
News Source TheGuardianNews