11 Oct 2015

Turkey in mourning as blast death toll rises

Thousands of people have gathered in Turkey’s capital Ankara to mourn the victims of a double bomb blast that killed at least 95 people and injured 246.

There were scuffles as people held vigils for the victims of the most deadly attack of its kind on Turkish soil, with many present chanting anti-government slogans.

Saturday’s attack happened at a peace rally to protest against the conflict between Turkish security forces and Kurdish militants in the southeast.

“Murderer (President Tayyip) Erdogan”, “murderer police”, the crowd chanted in Sihhiye square, as riot police backed by water cannon vehicles blocked a main highway leading to the district where parliament and government buildings are located.

The Turkish government said Islamic State, Kurdish militant factions or far-leftist radicals could have carried out the bombing. The prime minister’s office named 52 of the victims overnight. It said 246 wounded people were still being treated, 48 of them in intensive care.

The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) said that 128 people had been killed in the attacks, adding that it had been able to identify all but eight of the bodies from Saturday’s attack.

Hours after the bombing, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), as widely expected beforehand, ordered its fighters to halt operations in Turkey unless they faced attack. It said it would avoid acts that could hinder a “fair and just election” on November 1.

Pope Francis asked thousands of faithful in Saint Peter’s Square on Sunday to pray in silence for the victims after his weekly Angelus address.

“We are pained … because the perpetrators hit defenceless people who were demonstrating for peace. I pray for that dear country,” the pope said.

Meanwhile, Turkish warplanes struck PKK militant targets in northern Iraq and south east Turkey on Saturday and Sunday, pressing their military campaign a day after the rebel group ordered its fighters to halt attacks on Turkish soil.

Security sources said some 30-35 PKK guerrillas were killed in northern Iraqi raids on Sunday.

“The PKK ceasefire means nothing for us. The operations will continue without a break,” one senior security official told Reuters.