At least 95 killed in twin blast in Turkey's Ankara ahead of peace rally
A placard reading 'Peace Immediately' in Turkish is seen at the site of the explosion in Ankara. The bodies of victims are covered in flags and banners in the background. Oct. 10, 2015. AP photo
At least 95 people died in two explosions that shook a road junction in the center of the Turkish capital Ankara on Oct. 10, the largest single terror attack in the country's history, ahead of a "peace" meeting.
A total of 246 people were under treatment on the night of Oct. 10, with 48 in intensive care, the Prime Ministry's Coordination Center stated.
Nine policemen were slightly injured.
The blasts were at the two sides of the exit of the main train station in the city, where Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) supporters were gathering.
The cause of the blasts was not immediately clear, but the prime minister has said there was strong evidence that attacks were carried by two suicide bombers.
Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency reported that it could be a suicide bomber, as eye witnesses said human flesh was all over the scene.
Blasts occurred ahead of a planned "peace" march organized by labor unions and a number of NGOs to protest against the conflict between the state and militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in southeast Turkey.
Organizers have cancelled the meeting, calling on participants from other cities to return. They also called on people to donate blood for numbers of injured people at Ankara hospitals.
The rally was organized by the Confederation of Public Sector Trades' Unions (KESK), the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey (DİSK), the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), and the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB).
The police emptied the scene to avoid more casualties in any possible third attack.
Police fired into the air to disperse protesters from the scene. Demonstrators angered by the attack on their fellow activists shouted "police murderers," AFP reported, but were then dispersed as the security forces intervened.
Health Minister Mehmet Müezzionğlu said health teams moved in dynamically, but “there might have been some disruptions, due to the extent of the attack and panic, which might have caused a rise in the death toll.”
However, Interior Minister Selami Altınok ruled out any responsibility, saying he was not considering resignation.
“I hope to go to the ballot boxes under healthy conditions,” said the minister, referring to Turkey’s upcoming re-elections on Nov. 1.
Separately, Justice and Development Party (AKP) spokesman Ömer Çelik also said the attack targeted the elections. Reiterating that the AKP and its leader Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu had suspended their election campaign activities for three days, Çelik underlined need for a "united stance."
"This terrorist activity is aimed at creating chaos, instigating street movements and targeting the election environment. The attack aims to create trauma in society. It was extremely well planned and organized,” Çelik said.
“We are going through one of the biggest grievances of our history ... [The attack] aims to turn Turkey into an inward-oriented mood at a time when there are very important foreign policy developments taking place. This attack in Ankara could have taken place anywhere, there is a need for a joint stance. We do not consider this attack to have targeted a certain group or party. This attack is launched against all colors of Turkey," he added.
HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş said in Istanbul that the attack was very similar to the two recent attacks in Diyarbakır and Suruç. “The toll is very high,” he said.
On June 5, two days before the general election that took HDP to parliament as a party group, four people died in a twin bomb attack on a HDP rally in Diyarbakır, one of the strongholds of the party in the southeast, where Demirtaş was scheduled to address the crowd.
Turkey is now heading for a re-election, as the former election failed to produce a one-party or coalition government.
A total of 33 people also died in a July 20 attack on a socialist youth group by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the southeastern district of Suruç.
After the Oct. 10 attack, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan cancelled all scheduled programs.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu met with Deputy Prime Minister Yalçın Akdoğan, Health Minister Müezzionğlu, Interior Minister Altınok, the police chief, the intel chief, and the Ankara mayor at noon in Ankara.
Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaorğlu said Turkey “does not deserve this,” also announcing that his party has cancelled all events.
The party is ready to lend any support to end terrorism, he said. "We are ready with all our power. We have to exert joint efforts," Kılıçdaorğlu said.
CHP Deputy Chair Gürsel Tekin said a number of lawmakers from his party were planning to attend the meeting to lend support for the call for peace. Musa Kart, one of those deputies, shared the photo of an iron shot on the social media, saying that such pieces dropped from the air.
Council of Europe Secretary General Jagland has condemned the attack.
“The news from Ankara this morning is shocking and disturbing. This is a ruthless and barbaric attack on peaceful demonstrators. I express my condolences to all who have lost their friends and loved ones. Freedom of assembly and freedom of expression are fundamental pillars of democracy", said Jagland in a written statement.