Protesters flash the V-sign during a protest in Istanbul, denouncing the explosion in southeastern Turkey. Photo / AP
A suspected female Isis suicide bomber set off an explosion near a
cultural centre hosting youth activists in a Turkish border town,
leaving 30 dead and scores injured. Isis involvement in a direct attack on Turkey would be a major change, says expert.
The blast ripped through the
cultural centre in Suruc, just a few kilometres from the Syrian
flashpoint of Kobane, which was itself later hit in a co-ordinated
suicide car bombing.
Most of the dead were university students
with the Federation of Socialist Youths, who had been planning a mission
to help rebuild Kobane, which was retaken from Isis (Islamic State) by
Kurdish fighters this year. There was no immediate claim of
If Isis’ role in the bombing is confirmed, it would be one of the extremist group’s deadliest strikes on Turkish soil to date.
Stein, associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute for
Defence and Security Studies, said the attack appeared to target Kurds
and was “a spillover of their fight with Isis”.
By attacking Turkey directly, “Isis would be signalling a big
shift in its military modus operandi, which is to leave Turkey alone in
favour of consolidating its gains inside Syria. Any major provocation
against Turkey risks bringing it more forcefully into the war. So this
may not be an attack on Turkey per se.”
Suruc is a bastion of
support for the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Western-backed
Kurdish militia that has led the fight against Isis along Syria’s
northern border with Turkey. The town is also home to one of the biggest
refugee camps housing Syrians who have fled the bloody conflict at
home, sheltering 35,000 refugees.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the
Turkish President, condemned the attack which left 100 injured as an
“act of terror”. Turkish officials said they believed a female Isis
sympathiser was responsible. A local journalist reported that one
witness said she had seen a young woman in a suicide vest. A second
official also said that Isis appeared to have been responsible and that
the attack was a “retaliation for the Turkish Government’s efforts to
Erdogan’s Government has cracked down on Isis recruitment networks in recent weeks.
the suicide bomber struck, dozens of young Turkish and Kurdish men and
women shared food around long tables at the cultural centre. A video was
taken of activists holding the federation’s flag and a large banner
saying: “We defended it together, we are building it together”. It was
at that moment the explosion tore through the group. In the footage,
survivors can be heard screaming as bodies lie strewn across the remains
of the shattered table frames.
“I saw more than 20 bodies,” said one witness. “It was a huge explosion, we all shook.”
Edemen, 22, said: “One of my friends protected me. First I thought ‘I
am dying’, but I was okay. I started to run after I saw the bodies,” she
said as she sought treatment for injuries to her legs. She said the
group had believed Kobane was relatively safe. “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.