Demonstrators have taken to the streets of Ankara to protest the twin bombings that killed more than 95 people a day ago. Leftists and pro-Kurdish parties are blaming the government for the attacks.
Thousands filled the Sihhiye Square in Turkey’s capital Ankara on Sunday, blaming President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the bombings.
Among the slogans chanted were “Erdogan murderer” and “Government resign!”
The pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP)’s co-chairman Selahattin Demirtas said it was “an attack by the state on the people.” The HDP’s members, who had organized the rally that was attacked on Saturday, said they were targeted in the explosions.
“You are murderers. There is blood on your hands, ” Selahattin said, addressing the government.
Official figures ‘incorrect’
President Erdogan described the attack as “heinous.” According to official figures, 95 people were killed after the bombs exploded at a peace rally on Saturday morning.
However, Kurdish activists said the death toll was higher and could rise further. Around 122 people had died and more than 500 were injured, an HDP worker told the DPA news agency, on condition of anonymity.
No group had taken responsibility for the attacks by Sunday evening, but Prime Minister Ahmed Davutoglu said groups including the “Islamic State” (IS), the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the far-left Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) could be behind the explosions.
Flags flew at half-mast across Turkey to mark the first of three days of national mourning declared by Davutoglu.
Elections in November
The prime minister’s comments have angered Kurdish leaders and could intensify tensions before elections on November 1. The HDP had given stiff competition to Erdogan’s Justice and Development party in the parliamentary elections in June this year, causing Erdogan to lose absolute majority and eventually forcing him to call an unscheduled election.
Director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute, Soner Cagaptay said “This could well be Turkey’s 9/11” in reference to the four coordinated attacks on the United States by Islamist group al-Qaeda in 2001.
Meanwhile, the PKK, which is fighting for greater autonomy in Turkey’s southeast, said on Sunday it would halt armed action against Turkish soldiers unless it was attacked.
However, news agencies reported that Ankara’s military had carried out further airstrikes against the PKK in northern Iraq, killing 49 suspected militants. Two Turkish soldiers were also reported to have been killed in clashes with the PKK elsewhere in the region.