Bombing in Turkey: Who were the victims?

The youth activists, mainly university students, were gathered in a cultural center planning a trip to Syria when a suicide bomber attacked, killing 32 and injuring scores more.

Emrah Gurel/AP
A man lays flowers at the makeshift memorial shrine at the site of a Monday explosion in the Turkish town of Suruc near the Syrian border, Tuesday. Authorities suspected the Islamic State group was behind the apparent suicide bombing that killed 31 people and wounded nearly 100.

An apparent suicide bombing in a Turkish city near the Syrian border that left 32 people dead, including students who were gathering to provide humanitarian assistance to victims of the conflict with ISIS.

The blast occurred in Sanliurfa, Turkey, during a press conference held by youth activists in the garden of a cultural center. The activists, mainly university students, were planning to travel to Syrian town of Kobane, in an effort to rebuild the town, the BBC reported. According to Turkish Anadolu News Agency, most of the attendants were from the Federation of Socialist Youth Associations.

"There were guests from all parts of Kurdistan and Turkey.” Utku Caybasli, a member of the cultural center told the Kurdish TV Rudaw. “We were preparing for a press conference, but the explosion and the scenes of blood and gore made the people flee to different directions. We were afraid of a second explosion that’s why we ran away.”

The blast, which is suspected to be carried out by the Islamic State, killed 32 activists. The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet published the names of 30 of them.  On Tuesday, as Reuters reported, the funerals were held for some of the victims in Gaziantep.

The victims' photos are being circulated on social media. 

And former Prime Minister of Iraqi Kurdistan, Barham Salih, tweeted: "Innocence slaughtered by evil of DAESH [the Islamic State]; young activists providing humanitarian assistance to the vulnerable."

The Turkish government said Tuesday it has identified the suicide bomber, but did not release a name. Previously officials suggested the bomber may have been female, but local outlets have named a man in connection with the attack.

Turkey's foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, said there was a “high probability” that the Islamic State was behind the attack and added that the suspect’s possible international and domestic links are under investigation, Anadolu Agency reported.

While the Turkish government blames the jihadists, some point their finger at Ankara.

In Istanbul, protesters went into the streets on Monday with some blaming the government and chanting slogans against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse the crowd, Reuters reported.

And Kurdish television Rudaw reported Tuesday that there were some tensions between the police and citizens in Sanliurfa, with the crowd shouting slogans and blaming Erdogan’s government for the attack.

Turkey's Kurds say Ankara does not do enough to stop the Islamic State, but the government disagrees.

Mr. Davutoglu dismissed the accusations.  "It should not be viewed as an attack carried out by a group against another in Turkey; we should display a common stance against it as an attack against the whole [of] Turkey," he said on Tuesday. "Turkey and the AK Party has never had any direct or indirect relation with a terrorist organization and never tolerated terrorism.”

Over the past year, some Western nations have criticized Turkey for not doing enough to stop foreign fighters from crossing its border and joining the Islamic State group, and Washington has been pressing Turkey to do more. It is only recently that Ankara has decided to step up its efforts to combat the Islamic State group, following talks with the United States.

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