Explosion rocks Turkish city near Syrian border, kills 30, wounds nearly 100
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the midday explosion at a cultural center in Suruc, but one senior government official said Turkey suspected the Islamic State group was behind the blast.
Istanbul — An explosion rocked the Turkish city of Suruc near the Syrian border on Monday, killing 30 people and wounding nearly 100 others in what Turkish authorities said appeared to be an Islamic State group-inspired suicide bombing.
The midday explosion happened at a cultural center in Suruc as a political group, the Federation of Socialist Youths, was wrapping up a news conference on plans to rebuild the Syrian city of Kobane, a witness said.
"The way the incident took place is clearly an incident of terrorism and most likely a suicide bombing, savagely (committed) and that we curse," said Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. "We not only curse it. We are face-to-face with a terrorism incident. We have the willpower to find and certainly punish those who are responsible."
There was no immediate claim of responsibility but one senior government official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, said Turkey suspected the IS group was behind the blast.
Suruc, in southeastern Turkey, is just across the border from Kobane, the scene of fierce battles between Kurdish groups and the Islamic State group that lasted from last year into early this year. The city, heavily populated by Syrian Kurds, was the site of the Islamic State group's biggest defeat since the militants established control over large swathes of Iraq and Syria. Its ruins have become a symbol of Kurdish resistance.
If it is confirmed that IS was behind the attack, it would represent a major expansion of the group's campaign into Turkey at a time that the Turkish government appears to have stepped up its efforts against the group. The bombing was not the group's first attack in Turkey, but it was the most serious. In January, a female suicide bomber with suspected IS ties blew herself up in a tourist district of Istanbul, killing a police officer and injuring another.
Fatma Edemen said that before Monday's blast, the federation of about 200 youths had been pressing for more access to help reconstruction in Kobane.
"One of my friends protected me. First I thought 'I am dying' but I was OK. I started to run after I saw the bodies," she said by phone as she headed to a hospital to be treated for minor injuries to her legs.
Her voice shaking, she said her group had believed Kobane was relatively safe and ready to rebuild.
"Our friends went there and it didn't seem dangerous at that time. We couldn't even think something like that would happen," she said, adding that they had hoped to build a kindergarten or something else for children in the devastated city.
"We wanted to do something, but they would not let us," she said.
Kobane was also the scene of surprise IS attacks last month that killed more than 200 people.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Cyprus on an official visit, was briefed on the investigation, according to the state-run Anadolu Agency.
"I personally and on behalf of my nation condemn and curse those who perpetrated this savagery," Erdogan said in a news conference.
In a statement on Twitter, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan said "such despicable terrorist attacks on #Turkey's integrity and peace will never reach their goal."
Another explosion went off Monday south of Kobane. One Kurdish official initially described it as a bomb, but Kurdish official Mustafa Bali later said it happened as Kurdish militiamen were removing mortar shells from a dump. Three Kurdish fighters were killed, he said.
Suruc also hosts the largest refugee camp in Turkey, which has seen nearly 2 million Syrians cross its border to flee the fighting.
More than 220,000 Syrians have been killed and at least a million wounded since the country's crisis began in March 2011, according to the U.N.
Bassem Mroue in Beirut, Lori Hinnant in Paris and Ayse Wieting in Istanbul contributed to this report.