Thousands yesterday mourned the 95 victims of Turkey’s deadliest attack in years as state inspectors tried to identify who sent suicide bombers to a rally in the capital Ankara promoting peace with Kurdish rebels.
The government said Kurdish rebels or Islamic State (IS) militants were likely responsible, while mourners accused President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of fomenting violence to gain votes for the ruling party.
No-one has claimed responsibility, but Saturday’s attack bears similarities to a suicide bombing the government blames on IS, which killed 33 Turkish and Kurdish peace activists near a town bordering Syria in July.
Police detained 14 suspected Islamic State members yesterday in the central Turkish city of Konya, but it was not clear if they were related.
Some Turkish media declared that peace itself was under attack. The bombers struck hours before Kurdish rebels battling Turkish security forces followed through with plans to declare a unilateral ceasefire, to reduce tensions leading up to November 1 elections.
Turkey’s government rejected the declaration, saying the rebels must lay down arms for good and leave the country.
While no one group has been ruled out in the bombings, government opponents blamed security forces for failing to protect the peace rally.
Selahattin Demirtas, co-chairman of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party, said: “The state which gets information about the bird that flies and every flap of its wing, was not able to prevent a massacre in the heart of Ankara.”
Mr Demirtas said government officials should apologise to the people and resign. Some mourners chanted: “Murderer Erdogan!” Thousands also demonstrated in Istanbul on Saturday, blaming the government.
Mr Erdogan is hoping the ruling party regains its political majority, and critics accuse him of intensifying attacks on Kurds to rally nationalist votes. They worry the bombings could entice rogue Kurdish forces to attack, persuading Turks to seek security over peace.
IS, which is fighting Syrian Kurdish forces allied to Turkey’s Kurdish rebels, could benefit most from this, since a military offensive within Turkey would take pressure off the extremist group in Syria.
The Syrian government also has an interest in destabilising Turkey, which has made no secret of its desire to see President Bashar Assad ousted.