Two bombs exploded near Ankara’s main railway station on Saturday morning and caused the deaths of at least 86 people and resulted in more than 150 people being wounded. The pro-Kurdish HDP party, which was part of the demonstration, is reporting the deaths over 97 civilians. Unknown suicide bombers are said to be behind the attack which comes three weeks before elections in Turkey.
The casualties, reported by the interior ministry, consisted primarily of people gathered outside the main train station to attend a lunchtime demonstration to call for an end to the renewed conflict between the Kurdish PKK organization and the Turkish government.
Designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, the PKK launched a separatist insurgency in 1984 in which more than 40,000 people have been killed.
It has since reduced its demands to greater rights for the Kurdish minority; but Ankara fears a link-up between Kurdish militants in Turkey and Kurdish groups in Iraq and Syria that could lead to demands for a separate Kurdish state. The state launched peace talks with the PKK’s jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan in 2012 and the latest in a series of ceasefires had been holding until the violence flared again in July.
Turkish government officials said the explosions were a terrorist attack carried out by suicide bombers but no group has yet claimed responsibility. Turkey’s prime minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, was holding emergency meetings with government officials and security chiefs on Saturday afternoon.
“No matter what its origin, aim or name, we are against any form of terrorist act or terrorist organisation. We are obliged to be against it together.”
Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan
In the aftermath of the attack those involved in the peace march tended to the wounded, as hundreds of stunned people wandered around the streets. The blasts were so powerful they shook high-rise office buildings at some distance. The death toll is expected to climb.
“I heard one big explosion first and tried to cover myself as the windows broke. Right away there was the second one. There was shouting and crying and I stayed under the newspapers for a while. I could smell burnt flesh.”
Serdar, who was working at a newspaper stand in the train station.
Turkey has been in a heightened state of alert since starting a “synchronised war on terror” in July, including airstrikes against Islamic State fighters in Syria and PKK bases in northern Iraq. It has also rounded up hundreds of suspected militants at home.
The Prime Minister has declared 3 days of national mourning.
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