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Deadly blasts kill and wound dozens in Turkish capital

Two explosions have gone off near the main train station in the center of Turkey's capital, killing at least 86 people. The Turkish government says it believes the blasts were a "terrorist attack."

Local media reported that the blasts detonated Saturday morning ahead of a planned peace rally to protest against the conflict between state security forces and Kurdish militants.

Turkey's health minister said at least 86 people were killed and more than 120 wounded.

"We curse and condemn this atrocious attack taking aim at our democracy and our country's peace," a ministry statement said.

Television footage showed ambulances rushing to the scene in central Ankara and bodies lying in the streets.

"There was a massacre in the middle of Ankara," said Lami Ozgen, head of the Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions, which organized the rally.

"Two bombs exploded in very short intervals."

Initial reports said the first blast went off at around 10 a.m. local time (0700 UTC) as people gathered outside the main train station for the demonstration.

Turkish government officials described the twin blasts as a "terrorist attack," and said they were investigating claims that a suicide bomber was responsible. Following the explosions, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called an emergency meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan, government officials and security chiefs.

The US Embassy in Ankara condemned the attacks, saying there was a need to "stand united against terror."

The blasts come at a time of

growing security concerns

in Turkey, and just three weeks ahead of parliamentary elections.

Violence in the country's southeast has been escalating in recent months, with frequent clashes between the Turkish army and the militant Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Close to 150 police and soldiers and hundreds of PKK rebels have been killed in the fighting since the

collapse of a ceasefire

in July.

More than 30 people

were killed in a July attack

on a pro-Kurdish event in the southern town of Suruc. That bombing was blamed on "Islamic State," which has seized control of large parts of neighboring Syria. Several people were also killed in an explosion at a rally held by the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) in Diyarbakir in June.

nm/tj (Reuters, dpa, AFP, AP)

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