Suspected Islamic State teenage suicide bomber kills 51 at a wedding in Turkey

Women mourning as they wait outside a hospital morgue in Gaziantep, Turkey. (Photo: Osman Orsal, Reuters)

Women mourning as they wait outside a hospital morgue in Gaziantep, Turkey. (Photo: Osman Orsal, Reuters)

Fifty one people were killed on Saturday when a suspected suicide bomber detonated his explosives among people dancing on the street at a wedding party in the Turkish city of Gaziantep, about 40 km (25 miles) from the Syrian border.

The suicide bomber who attacked the wedding party is now believed to have been a child between the ages of 12 and 14, President Tayyip Erdogan has said.

In comments shown live by broadcaster NTV, Erdogan also confirmed that 51 people had died in the blast and 69 were wounded. Seventeen of the injured were “heavily” wounded, Erdogan said.

President Tayyip Erdogan said it was likely that Islamic State militants carried out the late-night attack, the deadliest bombing this year in Turkey, which faces threats from militants at home and from Syria.

Just weeks ago, Erdogan and his government survived an attempted coup, which Ankara blames on U.S.-based Islamist preacher Fethullah Gulen. He has denied the charge.

Islamic State has been blamed for other attacks in Turkey, often targetting Kurdish gatherings in an effort to inflame ethnic tensions, and the deadliest previous one was last October at a rally of pro-Kurdish and labour activists in Ankara when suicide bombers killed more than 100 people.

Saturday’s wedding party was for a member of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, it said, and the groom was among those injured.
The bride was not hurt, one local official said.

Celebrations were ending at the traditional henna night party, when guests have decorative paint applied to their hands and feet. Some families had already left when the bomb went off but women and children were among the dead, witnesses said.

Blood and burns marked the walls of the narrow lane where the blast hit. Women in white and checkered scarves cried, sitting crosslegged 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.”

The local governor’s office said in a statement 50 people were killed in the bombing, and more wounded were still being treated in hospitals around the province.

“We want to end these massacres,” witness Ibrahim Ozdemir said. “We are in pain, especially the women and children.”

FUNERALS, FORENSTIC TESTS

Hundreds gathered for funerals on Sunday, some weeping at coffins draped in the green colour of Islam, local television images showed. But other funerals would have to wait because many of the victims were blown to pieces and DNA forensics tests would be needed to identify them, security sources said.

In Gaziantep, the chief prosecutor’s office said they had found a destroyed suicide vest at the blast site.

Three suspected Islamic State suicide bombers killed 44 people at Istanbul’s main airport in June.

Violence has 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 the PKK.

Turkey began air strikes against Islamic State last July, in the weeks after a peace process with the PKK collapsed and it also began targetting 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 shelling from Islamic State territory, killing civilians on some days.

On Sunday, ruling AK Party lawmakers as well as Erdogan himself emphasised that 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 organisations.

(Reporting by Reuters TV, Osman Orsal, Dasha Afanasieva, Daren Butler and Humeyra Pamuk; Writing by Patrick Markey and Dasha Afanasieva; Editing by Dominic Evans)

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