Dozens dead in attack on wedding in Turkey’s Gaziantep

Published by Al Jazeera
On 21 August 2016 saa 12:45
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Officials suspect suicide bomber detonated explosives, killing at least 30 people and wounding nearly 94 in Gaziantep.

At least 30 people have been killed and 94 more wounded in an explosion at a wedding ceremony in Turkey’s southeastern province of Gaziantep, near the Syria border.

The blast, which occurred at around 11pm local time on Saturday in the Akdere neighbourhood of Sahin Bey district at a Kurdish family wedding, was a "terror attack", according to Ali Yerlikaya, the governor of Gaziantep.

He said ambulances were dispatched to the scene, and dead and wounded people were taken to hospitals.

Mehmet Simsek, Turkey’s deputy prime minister, told broadcaster NTV that the explosion appeared to have been caused by a suicide bomber.

Fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) group are believed to be behind the attack, Samil Tayyar, an MP with the governing Justice and Development Party, said on Twitter.

Southeastern Turkey has been hit by several deadly blasts over the past year, linked either to ISIL [also known as ISIS] or the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group outlawed in Turkey.

Three suspected ISIL suicide bombers killed 44 people at Istanbul’s main airport, Ataturk, in July, the deadliest in a string of attacks in Turkey this year.

Almost 40 people were killed in a suicide bomb attack in Ankara in March that was claimed by a Kurdish separatist group.

Violence flared up in the largely Kurdish southeast in the past week, with bomb attacks leaving 10 people dead in separate attacks, mostly police and soldiers, in an escalation that officials blamed on the PKK.

Turkey’s southeast has been hit by a wave of violence since the collapse of a ceasefire with the PKK in July last year.

The PKK has since carried out dozens of attacks on police and military posts in the southeast of the country.

Failed coup fallout

A group of Turkish soldiers last month attempted to overthrow the government, commandeering tanks, helicopters and warplanes in an attempted coup that killed 240 people.

The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused followers of Fethullah Gulen, a US-based exiled Turkish religious leader, of being behind the coup, a charge rejected by them.

Hakan Yavuz, a professor in the department of political science at the University of Utah, says Turkey is more vulnerable now because of the purge in security forces after the failed coup.

"The coup attempt destroyed the military institutions," he told Al Jazeera.

"There is also a rapprochement between Russia, Iran and Turkey over their Syria policies. Ankara is much more moderate now in allowing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to stay in government, at least during the transition period.

"ISIL poses a greater threat to Turkey as a result of this shift in the country’s foreign policy."