50 killed at wedding attack
AT least 50 people have been killed and 94 more wounded in an explosion at a wedding ceremony in Turkey’s southeastern province of Gaziantep, near the Syria border.
The blast, which occurred at around 11PM local time on Saturday in the Akdere neighbourhood of Sahin Bey district, was a “terror attack”, according to Ali Yerlikaya, the governor of Gaziantep.
He said ambulances were dispatched to the scene, and dead and wounded people were taken to hospitals.
Mehmet Simsek, Turkey’s deputy prime minister, told NTV that the explosion appeared to have been caused by a suicide bomber.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said “Daesh is the likely perpetrator of the attack”, using the Arabic name for the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) group.
“Our country and our nation have again only one message to those who attack us: You will not succeed!” he said.
Separately, Samil Tayyar, a member of parliament from the governing Justice and Development Party, pointed the finger at ISIL, also known as ISIS, in remarks on Twitter.
A major city lying just 60km north of the Syrian border, Gaziantep has become a hub for Syrians fleeing the civil war in their country.
But as well as refugees and opposition activists, there have long been fears it is home to a significant presence of ISIL sympathisers.
Sahin Bey district is said to have a large number of Kurdish residents and reports indicate the wedding too had a strong Kurdish presence, fuelling speculation of ISIL involvement.
The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) said its members had been present at the wedding, which was also attended by many women and children.
Southeastern Turkey has been hit by several deadly blasts over the past year, linked either to ISIL or the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group outlawed in Turkey. Three suspected ISIL suicide bombers killed 44 people at Istanbul’s main airport, Ataturk, in July, the deadliest in a string of attacks in Turkey this year.
Almost 40 people were killed in a suicide bomb attack in Ankara in March that was claimed by a Kurdish separatist group.
Violence flared up in the largely Kurdish southeast in the past week, with bomb attacks leaving 10 people dead in separate attacks, mostly police and soldiers, in an escalation that officials blamed on the PKK.
Turkey’s southeast has been hit by a wave of violence since the collapse of a ceasefire with the PKK in July last year. The PKK has since carried out dozens of attacks on police and military posts in the southeast of the country. — Al Jazeera
Relatives mourn the dead