Thousands rally to mourn Ankara bombing victims

Demonstrations held in Ankara and Kurdish city of Diyarbakir, condemning attack that killed at least 97 people.

Thousands of people have attended a rally in Ankara under heavy security to remember the scores of people killed in twin bombings in the Turkish capital.

The demonstrators on Sunday filled Sihhiye Square in central Ankara, close to the site of Saturday’s blasts outside the city’s train station, with some shouting anti-government slogans.

The rally was called by labour unions, leftist groups, NGOs and the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) – the same groups that had called the peace rally targeted in Saturday’s attack, which left at least 97 people dead and 246 injured.

Sinan Ozsaygin, a metal worker who lost a good friend in the attacks told Al Jazeera: “I just don’t know what to say – I have no words … How can anyone carry out this kind of massacre? We adamantly demand peace. Who exactly fears peace? If anybody should fear anything, it should be war, not peace.”

Gonul Kural, a teacher who was at the rally the day before when attacks happened, said she was worried more attacks may happen, adding, “I am afraid but one thing we know – the more we fear, the situation worsens in this country. Today we have to fight if we want to leave a better future for the next generation.”

Two senior officials told Reuters news agency that initial signs pointed to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) responsibility in the bombings.

However, several demonstrators blamed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the attack, shouting “Erdogan murderer”, “Government resign”, and “The state will give account”.

The government has ridiculed suggestions it could be implicated in the bombings.

President Erdogan denounced what he called a “heinous attack” targeting “our unity and our country’s peace”.

Declaring three days of mourning on Saturday, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said there were “strong signs” the attack was carried out by two suicide bombers.

Davutoglu said no one had claimed responsibility for the bombings, but that groups, including ISIL, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the far-left Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) were capable of carrying out such an attack.

In the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, Turkish riot police used water cannon and fired rubber bullets to disperse large crowds of pro-Kurdish demonstrators, protesting against the deadly attack.

Chanting demonstrators held up their fists and peace signs as they marched and fled to take cover behind shops and kiosks after police intervention.

Scores killed at the centre of the Turkish capital

International condemnation of the bloodshed was swift. German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed “sadness and dismay” over the attacks, while US President Barack Obama and Russia’s Vladimir Putin offered their condolences to Erdogan. Russian President Vladimir Putin said the attack was an “impudent act of terrorism”.

Amateur footage filmed moments before the blasts and broadcast on local NTV television showed smiling activists holding hands and dancing before suddenly falling to the ground as a huge explosion went off behind them.

Turkey has experienced an upsurge in unrest in recent months, which began after over 30 people were killed in the predominantly Kurdish town of Suruc on July 20 in an attack on pro-HDP activists that was blamed on ISIL.

The outlawed PKK accused Ankara of collaborating with ISIL and resumed attacks on the security forces after observing a two-year ceasefire.

Over 140 members of the security forces have since been killed, while Ankara claims to have killed more than 1,700 Kurdish fighters in weeks of bombardments of PKK targets in southeast Turkey and northern Iraq.

The PKK, which took up arms in 1984 demanding an independent state for Kurds, on Saturday announced it would suspend all offensive operations against Turkish forces ahead of the polls.

Turkish players observe a minute of silence for the victims of Ankara bombing prior to their Euro 2016 group-A qualification football match against Czech Republic in Prague [Reuters]
Turkish players observe a minute of silence for the victims of Ankara bombing prior to their Euro 2016 group-A qualification football match against Czech Republic in Prague [Reuters]
Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies