Bomb rips through youth meet­ings

31 dead in at­tack by sus­pected IS sui­cide bomber on Turk­ish city

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - WORLD -

Author­i­ties sus­pect the Is­lamic State group was be­hind an ap­par­ent sui­cide bomb­ing Mon­day in south­east­ern Tur­key that killed 31 peo­ple and wounded nearly 100 — a de­vel­op­ment that could rep­re­sent a ma­jor ex­pan­sion by the ex­trem­ists at a time when the gov­ern­ment is step­ping up ef­forts against them.

Turk­ish of­fi­cials vowed to strike back at those be­hind the at­tack in the city of Su­ruc tar­get­ing a group of po­lit­i­cal ac­tivists who wanted to help the shat­tered Syr­ian city of Kobani, a bomb­ing that turned a mo­ment of hope into a scene of hor­ror.

“We are face to face with a ter­ror­ism in­ci­dent,” Prime Min­is­ter Ah­met Davu­to­glu said. “We have the willpower to find and cer­tainly pun­ish those who are re­spon­si­ble.”

There was no im­me­di­ate claim of re­spon­si­bil­ity, but a se­nior gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial told The As­so­ci­ated Press that Tur­key sus­pected the IS group was be­hind the blast as re­tal­i­a­tion for Tur­key’s steps against the mil­i­tants.

The mid­day ex­plo­sion took place as the Fed­er­a­tion of So­cial­ist Youths was wrap­ping up a news con­fer­ence on plans to help re­build Kobani, a wit­ness said.

Su­ruc is just across the bor­der from Kobani, the town that was the site of fierce bat­tles be­tween Kur­dish groups and Is­lamic State fight­ers.

The fall of Kobani, heav­ily pop­u­lated by Syr­ian Kurds, was the big­gest de­feat last year for the mil­i­tants since they es­tab­lished con­trol over large parts of Iraq and Syria. Its ru­ins have be­come a sym­bol of Kur­dish re­sis­tance.

If IS was in­deed be­hind the bomb­ing, it would rep­re­sent the group’s most se­ri­ous at­tack in­side Tur­key. A fe­male sui­cide bomber with sus­pected ties to IS blew her­self up in a tourist dis­trict of Is­tan­bul in Jan­uary, killing a po­lice of­fi­cer and wound­ing another.

In re­cent weeks, Tur­key has taken new steps against IS, block­ing web­sites and ar­rest­ing sus­pected fol­low­ers in the coun­try, of­fi­cials said.

Wit­nesses of Mon­day’s blast de­scribed scenes of car­nage and shock. Be­cause the ac­tivists’ news con­fer­ence was be­ing recorded, the at­tack and its im­me­di­ate af­ter­math were cap­tured in widely cir­cu­lated video.

Fatma Ede­men said the fed­er­a­tion of about 200 youths had been press­ing for more ac­cess to Kobani to help with re­con­struc­tion. The group was chant­ing “Long live the re­sis­tance of Kobani!” when the ex­plo­sion tore through the crowd, she said.

“One of my friends pro­tected me. First I thought, ‘I am dy­ing,’ but I was OK,” the 22-year-old Ede­men told the AP by phone as she headed to the hos­pi­tal to get treat­ment for mi­nor in­juries to her legs. “I started to run af­ter I saw the bod­ies.”

Her voice shak­ing, she said her group had be­lieved it was rel­a­tively safe to re­build Kobani.

“Our friends went there, and it didn’t seem dan­ger­ous at that time. We couldn’t even think some­thing like that would hap­pen,” she said, adding that they had hoped to build a kinder­garten or some­thing else for chil­dren in the dev­as­tated city.

“We wanted to do some­thing, but they would not let us,” she added.

Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan, who was in Cyprus on an of­fi­cial visit, was briefed on the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, ac­cord­ing to the state-run Anadolu Agency.

“I per­son­ally and on be­half of my na­tion con­demn and curse those who per­pe­trated this sav­agery,” Er­do­gan said in a news con­fer­ence broad­cast on Turk­ish tele­vi­sion.

AP PHOTO

A wounded woman holds the hand of her dy­ing friend just af­ter an ex­plo­sion rocked the Turk­ish city of Su­ruc near the Syr­ian bor­der Mon­day. Thirty-one peo­ple were killed and more than 100 in­jured in the at­tack.

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