April 23, 2018

Turkey suicide bomb victims ‘mostly children’

Most of the victims of the bombing of a Kurdish wedding party in the Turkish city of Gaziantep on Saturday were children, media reports say.

Twenty-nine victims were under the age of 18, reports said, with one official saying 22 were under the age of 14. The death toll rose to 54 on Monday.
The suicide bomber himself was a child aged 12-14, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said.

Mr Erdogan has blamed so-called Islamic State (IS) for the attack.
Gaziantep, near the Syrian border, is known to contain several IS cells.

On Monday, Turkish officials were awaiting the results of DNA tests as they tried to identify the suicide attacker, the Hurriyet newspaper said.

It added that the type of bomb, which contained scraps of metal, was similar to those used in previous attacks on pro-Kurdish gatherings.

Kurdish fighters, backed by the US-led coalition, have been at the forefront of the fight against IS in Syria.

Prosecutors said a search was also under way for two people believed to have accompanied the suspected attacker to the wedding party but who left before the blast.

The death toll rose to 54 after three critically injured people died in hospital early on Monday. Thirteen of those killed were women, Turkish media said. Sixty-six people are still in hospital, 14 of them in a serious condition, Dogan news agency reported.

BBC Monitoring’s Turkey analyst Pinar Sevinclidir says the wedding celebration targeted is known as “henna night”, which involves participants painting their hands and feet and is traditionally attended mainly by women and children.
There were emotional scenes as dozens of funerals for victims took place on Sunday. Some distraught relatives threw themselves onto the coffins, correspondents said.

The explosion happened as wedding guests danced in the street on Saturday evening in a predominantly Kurdish district of Gaziantep.
The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), said the wedding had been for one of its members.

The bride and bridegroom, from the mainly Kurdish region of Siirt in the south-east, survived the blast but were among the injured. Their condition was not believed to be serious.

Witness Veli Can, 25, said that the celebrations were coming to an end when the explosion ripped through a crowd of people dancing.

“There was blood and body parts everywhere,” he said.

Mr Erdogan said IS had been trying to “position itself” in Gaziantep, which has become a major hub for Syrian refugees fleeing the civil war.

In a written statement, he said there was “no difference” between IS, the Kurdish militants of the PKK, and followers of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom he blames for the coup attempt last month.

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