At least 31 people have been killed in a bombing in the southern Turkish city of Suruc, near the border with Syria. Officials have said this may be the first "Islamic State" attack on Turkish soil.
A bomb blast on Monday that ripped through a cultural center in the Turkish town of Suruc, near the border with Syria, has left at least 31 people dead and nearly 100 wounded in an attack authorities believe to be the work of "Islamic State" (IS)-linked terrorists. If true, this would be the first such attack by the IS jihadists in Turkey.
"Preliminary findings point to it being a suicide attack carried out by Daesh," said Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, using an Arabic acronym for IS, "but at this point we are not at a point to make a final judgment."
"The attack targets us all," Davutoglu added, saying the terrorists were trying to undermine Turkish democracy. The prime minister further promised to beef up security on the country's porous border with Syria.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was swift to "curse and condemn" this "act of terror" and the "perpetrators of this brutality."
Activists hoped to build parks, help children
Kobani was under siege by IS for months before being driven out by Kurdish security forces in January
Most of the dead were university students who had gathered to undertake a humanitarian mission affiliated with the Federation of Socialist Youth Associations to help rebuild the Syrian city of Kobani after IS was driven out five months ago.
Social media accounts show some of the 300 activists who had come to Suruc breakfasting together at the Amara Cultural Center.
One local resident told French news agency AFP that the whole of Suruc was "in chaos," while a member of the pro-Kurdish HDP party lamented the loss of young people who were "planning to build parks in Kobani, hand out toys for children and paint school walls."
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest condemned the "heinous" act, and his sentiments were echoed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.
According to Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the attack in Suruc was quickly followed by a suicide car bombing at a checkpoint in Kobani which killed two members of the Kurdish security forces.
Due to its location 10 kilometers (about 6 miles) away from the border, Suruc houses one of the largest refugee camps for civilians who have fled the Syrian civil war. Around 35,000 of the 1.8 million Syrian refugees taken in by Turkey since 2011 live in the Suruc camp.
Protests put down
The attack sparked a wave of spontaneous demonstrations across Turkey to protest violence against Kurds throughout the country. Some demonstrators chanted slogans against Erdogan's ruling party, the AKP, accusing them of standing idly by while Kurds are attacked by IS.
Hundreds gathered in Istanbul's Taksim Square for a largely peaceful demonstration. But when, according to some witnesses, a few protesters threw bottles at police, officers retaliated with tear gas and a water cannon, forcing the demonstrators to disperse.
es/cmk (AFP, Reuters)