Turkish authorities are seeking to ascertain the identity of a child suicide bomber, acting on the orders of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group, who killed 54 people at a crowded Kurdish wedding.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the bomber at the street wedding late on Saturday in the city of Gaziantep, close to Syria, was aged “between 12 and 14” and that initial findings showed it had been “perpetrated by Daesh”.
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Daesh is another name for ISIL, also known as ISIS.
All 44 victims identified so far were laid to rest in ceremonies in Gazinantep on Sunday with relatives throwing themselves on the coffins in grief, an AFP correspondent said.
The hillside graveyard was pockmarked before the ceremony with the holes of dozens of freshly dug graves for the victims.
Media reports said the majority of those dead were children or teenagers, with 29 of the 44 victims identified so far aged under 18.
At least 22 victims were under 14, a Turkish official said.
There were no further details on the bomber’s identity, but Erdogan said ISIL had been trying to “position itself” in Gaziantep which lies just 60km north of Syria and is a major centre for refugees from the over five-year civil war.
The Hurriyet daily said that DNA tests were under way to ascertain the identity, nationality and gender of the bomber.
It is possible that the bomber had come over the border from Syria but ISIL is also known to have built homegrown cells inside Turkey, in Gaziantep and even Istanbul, according to Abdulkadir Selvi, a well-connected columnist.
He said that Turkish security forces believed the attack had been timed as retaliation by fighters for offensives both by Kurdish groups and pro-Ankara Syrian opposition forces against ISIL in Syria.
“There’s a fight against ISIL but we are paying the price,” he wrote.
Selahattin Demirtas, leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), said in a statement that “all of those killed were Kurds”.
The bride and groom – a couple from the strongly Kurdish region of Siirt to the southeast – were admitted to hospital although their wounds were not serious.
The attack followed a string of strikes blamed on ISIL and Kurdish fighters in thepast months but was the deadliest so far this year and first significant action in Turkey since the failed July 15 coup.
Hurriyet said the type of bomb used – stuffed with scraps of metal – was similar to explosives used in previous suicide bombings against pro-Kurdish gatherings blamed on ISIL in the border town of Suruc and at Ankara train station last year.
|Family members and friends attended the funeral of the Gaziantep blast victims [Osman Orsal/Reuters]|