Ankara deadly attacks exacerbate climate of mistrust in Turkey

Friday 09/10/2015
Turkey plunges deeper into turbulence

ANKARA - Thousands of people on Sunday attended a rally in Ankara under heavy security to remember the at least 95 people killed in twin bombings in the Turkish capital, a correspondent reported.

The demonstrators 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.

Several demonstrators blamed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the bombings, shouting "Erdogan murderer", "government resign!" and "the state will give account".

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

HDP leader Selahattin Demirtas, speaking to the rally, reaffirmed his party's claim that 128 people were killed, far higher than the official toll of 95 dead.

"Our hearts are burning. As of now, we have lost 128 of our comrades," he said, speaking from the top of a truck.

Demirtas said that rather than seeking revenge people should aim to end Erdogan's rule, starting with November 1 legislative elections.

"We are not going to act out of revenge and hatred. But we are going to ask for (people to be held to) account," he added.

"November 1 is the first step towards that. What you are waiting for is November 1, this is when we start the work to topple the dictator," he said.

Erdogan had earlier denounced what he called a "heinous attack" targeting "our unity and our country's peace".

Declaring three days of mourning on Saturday, Davutoglu said there were "strong signs" the attack was carried out by two suicide bombers.

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.

There were scenes of chaos after the blasts, as ambulances raced to get to the wounded and police cordoned off the bloodstained area around the train station.

"We heard one huge blast and then one smaller explosion and then there was a great movement and panic. Then we saw corpses around the station," said Ahmet Onen, 52.

"A demonstration that was to promote peace has turned into a massacre, I don't understand this," he said, sobbing.

Turkish police fired into the air to disperse demonstrators angered by the deaths of their fellow activists at the anti-government peace rally, a correspondent at the scene reported.

Davutoglu said no one had claimed responsibility for the bombings but that groups including Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists, 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.

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

Reports said hundreds of people in Ankara rushed to hospitals to donate blood for the victims.

The death toll surpassed that of the May 2013 twin bombings in Reyhanli on the Syrian border that killed over 50 people.

With international concern growing over instability in the key NATO member, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini urged Turkey to "stand united against terrorists".

Among those killed was HDP member Kubra Meltem Mollaoglu, who was standing for parliament in the upcoming polls.

In Istanbul, some 10,000 people marched down the main central avenue to denounce the attacks.

Thousands also took to the streets in solidarity in Paris, Strasbourg and Marseille in France, as well as in Zurich in Switzerland.

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 against pro-HDP activists that was blamed on IS.

The outlawed PKK accused Ankara of collaborating with the jihadists 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 militants 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.

The HDP performed strongly in the last election in June, winning 80 seats in parliament to deprive Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of an outright majority for the first time since it came to power in 2002.

The AKP then failed to form a coalition in months of talks, prompting Erdogan -- who had been hoping for a large majority to push through reforms to boost his powers -- to call fresh polls on November 1.