ISIL uses child bomber in attack that killed 51 in SE Turkey
Women mourn as they wait in front of a hospital morgue in the Turkish city of Gaziantep, after a suspected bomber targeted a wedding celebration in the city, Turkey, August 21, 2016. REUTERS photo
At least 51 people were killed and 69 others were wounded in a suicide attack at a wedding ceremony late on Aug. 20 in southeastern Turkey, the Gaziantep Governor’s Office has said, with the president saying the perpetrator was a child suicide bomber likely from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
“There are strong indications that the attack was carried out by ISIL. A suicide bomber aged between 12 and 14 blew himself up. We know that ISIL has been trying to gain ground in Gaziantep for a while now,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told journalists in a press briefing in Istanbul on Aug. 21.
The terror attack took place in the Beybahçe neighborhood of the Şahinbey district of Gaziantep province, according to a statement by the governor’s office. After its initial inspections at the scene, police said they found pieces of a suicide vest.
The bride and the groom were also wounded in the attack on a street wedding, mostly attended by people from the eastern provinces of Siirt and Van.
The suicide bomber reportedly joined the crowd disguising himself as a guest before blowing himself up. Funerals were started to be held on Aug. 21.
President Erdoğan condemned the attack in a statement, adding that “the place where terror comes from doesn’t make any difference for us.”
“There is no difference between the PKK [Kurdistan Worker’s Party], the FETÖ [Fetullahist Terror Organization] or Daesh. All of them are terrorists,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for ISIL.
During his speech, Erdoğan stressed that it was important for citizens to notify security officials of any information they have on a possible attack.
“Do not think of it as snitching. It is one of the most important parts of intelligence,” he added.
In an earlier statement, Erdoğan said the aim of such attacks was to sow division between different groups in Turkey such as Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen and “spread incitement along ethnic and religious lines.”
“Those who cannot defeat Turkey try to provoke people by abusing ethnic and sectarian sensitiveness, but they will not prevail,” he said.
In a written statement, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım described the pain of the attack as “very big.” “Everyone should make sure that our unity will repel all evil external or domestic attacks,” he said.
The attack occurred on the same day as Erdoğan had attended a security meeting at the Huber Mansion in Istanbul with Yıldırım, Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar and several other ministers.
Health Minister Recep Akdağ and Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek visited the scene of the attack, as the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) sent a delegation to the province.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) held its extraordinary Central Executive Board (MYK) meeting on Aug. 21, in order to gather information on the attack from the party members in Gaziantep. The AKP also held an extraordinary MYK meeting.
CHP head Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and MHP head Devlet Bahçeli both condemned the attack, saying it aimed at the unity of the people.
“Our rage is deep and sorrow is common. It should be known that the ones aiming to hit our unity with such an attack won’t reach their treacherous goals,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, adding that the “barbaric group” behind the attack is the enemy of Turkey’s republic, democracy and secularism.
“The residues of the demons like FETÖ, PKK and ISIL will get the punishment they deserve,” Bahçeli wrote on his Twitter account.
The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which is focused on the Kurdish issue, said in a statement that the wedding was for one of its members, and women and children had been among those killed. HDP co-chair Figen Yüksekdağ visited the scene of the attack on Aug. 21 to pay her condolences to the victims.
In addition, a HDP delegation led by the party’s co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş cancelled a diplomatic program in South Africa following the attack.
Meanwhile, the bride Besna Akdoğan was released from the hospital, while she was fainting and crying over the incident.
“They turned our wedding into blood,” Akdoğan said, as she was taken to her house with the help of her relatives.
The authorities imposed a temporary blackout on coverage of the attack after it took place, citing “public order and national security” reasons.