Suspected Islamic State suicide bombing kills 28 in Turkish border town; Pakistan condemns attack
SURUC, Turkey – A suspected Islamic State suicide bomber killed at least 28 people, mostly young students, in an attack on a Turkish town near the Syrian border on Monday.
Television footage showed bodies lying beneath trees outside a cultural center in the mostly Kurdish town of Suruc in southeastern Turkey, some 10 km (6 miles) from the Syrian town of Kobani where Kurdish fighters have been battling Islamic State.
The blast tore through a group of mostly university-aged students from an activist group as they gathered to make a statement to the local press about a trip they were planning to help rebuild Kobani. The Hurriyet daily said the attacker was an 18-year old woman, but there was no confirmation.
“Our initial evidence shows that this was a suicide attack by Islamic State,” one senior official in Ankara told Reuters.
A second official also said Islamic State appeared to have been responsible and that the attack was a “retaliation for the Turkish government’s efforts to fight terrorism”.
Meanwhile, Pakistan has condemned the attack and expressed sympathies with the bereaved family.
Turkey’s NATO allies have been seeking tighter controls on a porous border with Syria that serves as a frontline in the battle against Islamic State. But monitoring is difficult with 1.8 million Syrian refugees now settled on the Turkish side.
“I saw more than 20 bodies,” one witness told Reuters by telephone, giving his name as Mehmet. “It was a huge explosion, we all shook.”
Video footage showed young men and women standing behind a banner declaring support for Kobani, some holding up small red flags. Suddenly there was a huge explosion, apparently from within the crowd, sending up a column of flame.
The attack comes weeks after Turkey deployed additional troops and equipment along parts of its border with Syria, concerned about the risk of spillover as fighting between Kurdish forces, rebel groups, Syrian government troops and Islamic State militants intensifies.
Turkey’s leaders have said they do not plan any unilateral military incursion into Syria but have also said they will do whatever is necessary to defend the country’s borders.
President Tayyip Erdogan said 28 people were killed in Suruc. The death toll could rise. “Terror has no religion, no country, no race,” he said of the bloodiest such attack in Turkey since at least 50 people were killed in the town of Reyhanli near the border in 2013.
“UK stands shoulder to shoulder with Turkey in condemning unequivocally all terrorism,” British ambassador Richard Moore said on his Twitter account. “I have kids that age.”
Ankara fears any disorder in the border area could re-ignite an armed Kurdish separatist rebellion by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that has killed some 40,000 since 1984.
Turkey’s Kurds have been enraged by what they see as Ankara’s failure to do more to stop Islamic State. The PKK held the government responsible for Monday’s attack, saying it had “supported and cultivated” Islamic State against the Kurds. –Reuters
Meanwhile, Pakistan has strongly condemned terrorist attack on Monday.
The Foreign Office spokesman, in a statement, reaffirmed Pakistan’s condemnation of terrorism in all forms and manifestations.
The statement conveyed heartfelt sympathies and condolences with the brotherly people and government of Turkey.