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News, August 2016
51 People Killed, 69 Injured in a Suicide Bombing Targeting a Kurdish Wedding Party in Gaziantep, Turkey
August 21, 2016
Erdogan: Early signs point to Daesh in wedding blast
Suicide bomber aged between 12 and 14 suspected to be involved in wedding attack, which killed at least 51 people
August 21, 2016
Anadolu, ISTANBUL --
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said early signs point to Daesh's involvement in Saturday's deadly blast that targeted a wedding ceremony in southeast Turkey.
Speaking to reporters in Istanbul Sunday, Erdogan said a suicide bomber aged between 12 and 14 was involved in the attack, adding the bomber either blew himself up or was remotely detonated.
Commenting on the latest casualty toll, the President said 51 people were killed and 69 others were wounded, including 17 critically.
"The initial findings of the governor and our police forces indicate the attack has been perpetrated by Daesh. As you know, Daesh is trying to position and organize itself in Gaziantep. Security operations have been conducted and are still being conducted against the terrorist organization,” Erdogan said.
"Last night [Saturday], they [terrorists] used children aged 12-14 years as a human bomb to carry out an attack at a wedding in Gaziantep. Currently, 69 people wounded, 17 seriously, are being treated at the hospital. The death toll is now 51,” he said.
"To preserve perennially our unity and brotherhood, we must all face these terrorist organizations. In our view, all these terrorist groups, whether the PKK, FETO, Daesh or PYD /YPG in Syria, are all the same. All together, like we did against the coup bid of July 15, we will overcome these difficulties," he said.
About the defeated coup Erdogan said: "I do not think our military and our police are totally cleared of FETO elements. That is why we will continue our actions to clean up all our state and public institutions of these traitors so that we no longer face such threats."
The attack took place in the Beybahce neighborhood of the Gaziantep province’s Sahinbey district around 10.50 p.m. (1950GMT) on Saturday, according to the Gaziantep Governor's Office.
Turkish military condemns SE Turkey wedding attack
Turkish Armed Forces to continue fight against all terrorist organizations and all threats, military says
By Merve Yildizalp
August 21, 2016
The Turkish military has strongly condemned Saturday’s attack on a wedding ceremony in Gaziantep province, which left 51 people dead.
The Turkish General Staff in a statement on Sunday said the “raving murderers”, who did not abstain from killing innocent people even on their wedding, would never be able to destroy the Turkish people's unity, solidarity and their March 18 and July 15 spirits, which refers to the Battle of Canakkale and the defeated coup attempt in Turkey.
Those who use terrorism against the country's and the nation's power and future will be punished, it said.
"Turkish Armed Forces is fighting against all terrorist organizations and all kinds of threat and dangers pertinaciously and determinedly, without harming any of our innocent citizens; [the military is] at the nation and state's service, and [stands] shoulder-to-shoulder with gendarmes, police, and guards," the statement said.
The General Staff strongly condemned the terrorist attack in Gaziantep and wished God's mercy on those who lost their lives and a speedy recovery to people who were wounded in the attack, it added.
Turkey's Erdogan blames child bomber for attack that killed 51
Angry protest at funeral of Turkish bomb victims
Reuters, Sun Aug 21, 2016 7:08pm EDT
GAZIANTEP, Turkey --
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."
FUNERALS, FORENSIC TESTS
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.
(Reporting by Dasha Afanasieva, Daren Butler, Humeyra Pamuk and Ayla Jean Yackley; Additional reporting by Julia Edwards in Washington; Writing by Patrick Markey and David Dolan; Editing by Andrew Roche)
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