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Turkey’s child suicide bomber attack, kills 51.


A suicide bomber
aged between 12 and 14 carried out the attack on a wedding party in the
Turkish city of Gaziantep on Saturday that killed at least 51 people,
the president said.

The
attack was the deadliest in a series of bombings in Turkey this year,
and President Tayyip Erdogan said Islamic State was likely behind it.

“Initial
evidence suggests it was a Daesh attack,” Erdogan said in Istanbul on
Sunday, using an Arabic name for the hardline Sunni Islamist group. He
said 69 people were in hospital and 17 were “heavily injured”.

A destroyed suicide vest was found at the blast site, officials said.

Islamic
State has been blamed for other similar attacks in Turkey, often
targeting Kurdish gatherings in an effort to inflame ethnic tensions.
The deadliest was last October, when suicide bombers killed more than
100 people at a rally of pro-Kurdish and labor activists in Ankara.

Saturday’s
attack comes with Turkey still in shock just a month after Erdogan and
the government survived an attempted coup by rogue military officers,
which Ankara blames on U.S.-based Islamist preacher Fethullah Gulen.
Gulen has denied the charge.

The
pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) said the wedding party was
for one of its members.

 The groom was among those injured, but the bride
was not hurt.

The bomb went off as
guests spilled out into the streets of the city close to the Syrian
border after the traditional henna night party, when guests have their
hands and feet painted.

Women and children, including a three-month-old baby, were among the dead, witnesses said.
Blood
and burn marks stained the walls of the narrow lane where the blast
hit. Women in white and checkered scarves wept outside the morgue
waiting for word on missing relatives.

“The
celebrations were coming to an end and there was a big explosion among
people dancing,” said 25-year-old Veli Can. “There was blood and body
parts everywhere.”

“We want to end these massacres,” witness Ibrahim Ozdemir said. “We are in pain, especially the women and children.”

Hundreds gathered for funerals
on Sunday, with coffins draped in the green of Islam. But some
ceremonies would have to wait because many victims were blown to pieces
and DNA tests would be needed to identify them, security sources said.

“Every
type of death is painful. But it is even more painful when it comes
with religious slogans. It is even more painful when they mix religion
with politics,” said Omer Emlik, who said he was an uncle of two of the
victims.

“All the people here are suffering.”

The
United States condemned the attack and said Vice President Joe Biden
would discuss the fight against terrorism during a visit to Ankara this
coming week.

“The perpetrators of
this barbaric act cynically and cowardly targeted a wedding, killing
dozens and leaving scores wounded,” said Ned Price, a spokesman for the
White House National Security Council, in a statement.

Anti-government protests erupted at at least one funeral, where threw plastic bottles and chanted “Murderer Erdogan!”
Some in Turkey feel the government has not done enough to protect its citizens from Islamic State.

NATO
member Turkey is a partner in the Western coalition against Islamic
State in Iraq and Syria, allowing U.S. jets to fly missions against the
group from its air bases. It has also supported some rebel groups in
Syria.

Syrian rebels backed by
Turkey were preparing to launch an operation to capture a town held by
Islamic State near the Turkish border, a senior Syrian rebel said on
Sunday.

Islamic State is also fighting U.S.-backed
Syrian Kurdish rebels, who have taken ground from the hardline group.
Ankara considers the Syrian Kurdish fighters a terrorist group and
worries their advance against Islamic State will encourage Kurdish
militants in Turkey.

“ISIS has been trying to
agitate or exploit already tense ethnic and sectarian faultlines to
retaliate for the advancement of Syrian Kurds in the north of Syria and
by Turkey’s attack on ISIS targets in Syria,” said Metin Gurcan, an
independent security analyst and retired Turkish military officer who
writes a column for Al-Monitor.

“For ISIS it is hitting two birds with one stone.”

Three suspected Islamic State suicide bombers killed 44 people at Istanbul’s main airport in June.

Violence
also flared again this week in the largely Kurdish southeast. Ten
people were killed in bomb attacks, mostly police and soldiers, in an
escalation that officials blamed on PKK Kurdish militants.

Turkey
began air strikes against Islamic State in July 2015. A peace process
with the PKK collapsed and it also began targeting PKK targets in
northern Iraq.

Just a half an hour
away from Gaziantep is the border town of Kilis which has been
repeatedly hit by rockets and shells fired from Islamic State territory,
sometimes killing civilians.

On
Sunday, Erdogan and ruling AK Party lawmakers emphasized they see
Islamic State as no different to the Kurdish separatist PKK and the
group led by Gulen, all three classified by Turkey as terrorist
organizations.

 

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