Death toll climbs to 86 after blasts in Turkish capital during protests against conflict between state and Kurdish militants
More than 80 people have been killed and up to 150 wounded in the deadliest terror attack in Turkey’s history after two explosions targeted a peace rally in the centre of the capital.
Twin explosions outside Ankara’s main train station on Saturday morning targeted hundreds of people who had gathered to protest against violence between authorities and the Kurdish militant group, the PKK.
Turkish government officials said the explosions were a terrorist attack carried out by a suicide bomber 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.
The health minister confirmed 86 people were killed in the blasts and 126 were wounded. . It is believed the death toll could continue to rise.
Immediately after the attack at least 20 bodies could be seen covered by bloodstained flags on the road. Witnesses said the blasts were seconds apart shortly after 10am and were so powerful they rocked nearby high-rise buildings.
The Turkish president, Tayyip Erdoğan, condemned the double bombing, saying the attack targeted the country’s unity and peace. Erdoğan said: “I strongly condemn this heinous attack on our unity and our country’s peace.
“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.”
The president said there was no distinction between the terrorist attack in Ankara, which came just three weeks ahead of parliamentary elections, and the ones targeting Turkish soldiers and police.
“Like other acts of terror, the attack at the Ankara train station is taking aim at our unity, brotherhood and future,” he added. “The solidarity and determination we are going to display in the face of this attack will be the biggest and the most meaningful response to the terror.”
Erdoğan urged people to be “against, not on the side of terror” and said the perpetrators of Saturday’s attack would be found in the shortest time and delivered to justice.
Some witnesses said ambulances could not immediately reach the scene of the attack, and that police obstructed the quick evacuation of the wounded from the square. Turkish MP Sirri Süreyya Önder also claimed a suspicious vehicle and another suspicious package had been found and that bomb disposal experts had been called to the scene.
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. Bodies lay in two circles around 20 metres apart where the explosions had taken place.
Selahattin Demirtaş, co-chair of the HDP party, said : “We are witnessing a massacre here. A cruel and barbarian attack was carried out. The death toll is high.”
The US Embassy in Ankara denounced the blasts and said in a Twitter message: “All of us must stand united against terror.”
The explosion will spark significant security concerns ahead of the parliamentary elections and fuel fear over violent outbreaks in the region. A rally for the pro-Kurdish HDP party was bombed in June, ahead of last year’s general election, but this is the deadliest single attack on the country’s soil.
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.
Designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the US and the European Union, the PKK launched a separatist insurgency in 1984 in which more than 40,000 people have been killed.
The state launched peace talks with the PKK’s jailed leader in 2012 and the latest in a series of ceasefires had been holding until the violence flared again in July.