Nearly half the victims of Kurdish wedding bombing were under 14
Turkey vows to ‹cleanse› ISIS from its border after attack kills 54, wounded nearly 70
The Associated Press
August 22, 2016
Many of the victims killed at Saturday’s wedding were buried on Sunday. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said ISIS was the ‹likely perpetrator› of the attack in Gaziantep, the country’s deadliest this year. (Ilyas Akengin/AFP/Getty Images)
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Monday that his country is determined to fight ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) extremists both inside Turkey and in Syria, after a suicide bomber blew himself up at a Kurdish wedding party, killing at least 54 people, many of them children.
Cavusoglu said Turkey would provide every kind of support that may be necessary to «completely cleanse» Turkey’s border with Syria of the extremists.
Suicide bomber at Kurdish wedding was as young as 12
Wedding party bombing in Turkey kills 27, injures 94
The death toll from Saturday’s attack increased to 54 on Monday, after three more victims died in hospital, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported. Nearly 70 others were wounded.
People wait close to empty graves for the victims of the weekend attack on a wedding party that left 55 dead and nearly 70 wounded in Gaziantep in southeastern Turkey near the Syrian border. (Ilyas Akengin/AFP/Getty Images)
An official said at least 22 victims of the attack in the southeastern city of Gaziantep, near the border with Syria, were children under the age of 14. The official couldn’t be named in line with Turkish government rules.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but officials have said it appears to be the work of ISIS, accusing it of trying to destabilize the country by exploiting ethnic and religious tensions. It was the deadliest attack in Turkey this year.
Attacker was teen, Erdogan says
Authorities were trying to identify the attacker, who President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said was aged between 12 and 14.
Family members of Sehriban Nurbay, a three-month-old victim of a suicide bombing at a wedding in Gaziantep, attend her funeral ceremony in the southern Turkish city of Gaziantep, Turkey, Aug. 21. Turkish authorities say at least 22 of the victims were under 14. (Osman Orsal/Reuters)
Responding to a question on reports that Turkish-backed Syrian opposition forces may launch an operation to free an ISIS-held town from Turkish territory, Cavusoglu said: «Our border has to be completely cleansed of Daesh. It’s natural for us to give whatever kind of support is necessary,» He was using an Arabic name for the IS group.
«[ISIS] martyred our … citizens. It is natural for us to struggle against such an organization both inside and outside of Turkey,» he said.
Cavusoglu said Turkey had become a main target for the group because of measures it has implemented to stop recruits from crossing into Syria to join the fighting, as well as hundreds of arrests of ISIS suspects in Turkey. He said Turkey had also become a top target because of statements by Erdogan, who has said the extremist group did «not represent Islam.»
ISIS sees Turkey as ‹primary target›
«Turkey has always been Daesh› primary target, because Turkey has dried out the source of Daesh’s supply of foreign fighters, rather, it has stopped them from crossing into Syria,» he said.
The deadly attack also came amid ongoing struggles between the government and Kurdish militants linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers› Party, known as the PKK, and as the country is still reeling from the aftermath of last month’s failed coup attempt, which the government has blamed on U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen and his followers.
The suicide bombing follows a June attack on Istanbul’s main airport where ISIS suspects killed 44 people. A dual suicide bombing blamed on IS at a peace rally in Turkey’s capital, Ankara, in October killed 103 people.
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The pro-Kurdish political party HDP condemned the attack on the wedding, which it said was attended by many of its party members.
Nihat Ali Ozcan, a security and terrorism expert at the Ankara-based Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey, said the attack on the Kurdish wedding appeared to be retaliation by ISIS for recent Syrian Kurdish militia gains against the extremist group in Syria along the Turkish border.
A funeral service for victims of the Gaziantep bombing was held in the town of Suruc on Sunday. (Gokhan Sahin/Getty Images)
«It appears to be an act to punish the PYD,» Ozcan said, referring to a Syrian Kurdish group whose militia is fighting ISIS. «It’s the cross-border settlement of scores by two actors fighting in Syria.»
Ozcan said the group had chosen a wedding party and sent a child to carry out the attack to increase the «shock» effect of the attack. He said the attack was most likely carried out by a local IS cell, who would have knowledge that the wedding was a Kurdish one.
More funerals were scheduled in Gaziantep for at least three of the victims on Monday.
Halil Ilter said he was at home when he heard the sound of the explosion and rushed to the scene to check on his relatives. He lost five of his young cousins in the attack.
People gather immediately after the explosion in Gaziantep. (Eyyup Burun/DHA via Associated Press)
«I cannot recount what I saw,» he told Anadolu Agency. «I am not myself since. There is nothing to say, it was murder.»
«My uncle’s children died. They were aged 13, 14. One was only 5,» he said.
At least 22 of the victims in a suicide bomb attack on a wedding party in the southeastern Turkish city of Gaziantep at the weekend were under the age of 14, a government official said on Monday.