The attack is the deadliest ever of its kind on Turkish soil.
Word is that the Islamic State is behind these horrific bombings. President Erdogan covertly backed this group over the past couple of years. The Turkish government has censored media coverage of bombings as Twitter and Facebook were “blocked.” State media watchdog, the Turkish Supreme Board of Radio and Television (RTÜK), imposed a ban on broadcasting images of the blast.
Blasts kill scores at peace rally in Turkey in sign of worsening instability,” By Erin Cunningham, Washington Post, October 10, 2015
BEIRUT — Two bomb blasts ripped through crowds at a rally of peace activists in the Turkish capital Saturday, killing scores, in a reminder of the growing conflicts Turkey faces both at home and across the border in war-torn Syria.
The explosions in Ankara, which occurred just minutes and yards apart, killed 97 people and injured 246 more as they gathered to call for an end to the violence that has flared between Turkish security forces and Kurdish separatists in recent months.
Turkey, a NATO member and key U.S. ally, shares borders with Syria, Iraq and Iran — all of which are embroiled in the conflict with the Islamic State. Turkish officials have confronted Russia over the latter’s violation of Turkey’s airspace in recent days, as Russian warplanes launch strikes against Syrian rebels, heightening tensions.
The renewal of Turkey’s decades-old struggle with the Kurds could destabilize the region further. Ethnic Kurds have also accused Turkish authorities of failing to protect them from what they say is violent spillover from Syria’s civil war.
In July, a suicide bombing targeting another rally of Kurdish peace activists, in the town of Suruc, killed 33 people and was blamed on the Islamic State. Turkey then joined the U.S.-led coalition carrying out strikes on the jihadists inside Syria and was braced for potential blowback from the extremists. Turkey hosts more than 2 million refugees from Syria, which the government says is a major source of political instability.
[Turkey agrees to allow U.S. military to use its base to attack Islamic State ]
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Saturday that there were “strong indications” the attack was carried out by suicide bombers, although there was no immediate claim of responsibility. He said the target was Turkish unity, democracy and stability.
“Early indicators would point to ISIS as the culprit,” said Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish research program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. ISIS is a common acronym for the Islamic State.
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Either way, “this could well be Turkey’s 9/11,” Cagaptay said. “This is simply the worst terror attack in Turkish history.”
The United States also condemned the twin bombings as a terrorist attack. “It is particularly important at this time that all Turkish citizens recommit to peace and stand together against terror,” the State Department said in a statement. Turkey’s state-run news agency said Saturday that President Obama called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to offer his condolences for those killed in the attack. The report from Turkey’s Anadolu Agency said Obama told Erdogan that the United States “shared Turkey’s grief.”
The demonstrators, mobilized by a coalition of Turkish trade unions, had gathered outside Ankara’s main train station hours earlier to chant, wave banners and flags, and call for peace. The crowd included a mix of Kurdish and leftist Turkish activists, local media reports said.
A video that circulated on social media showed demonstrators linking arms to perform a traditional dance before a fiery explosion erupted in the background, sending the crowd into a panic. It was unclear whether the explosion was from the first or the second bomb detonated outside the station.