Suicide bombings kill 95 people at Ankara peace rally

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Explosions Kill Dozens at Peace Rally in Turkey


ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -- Nearly simultaneous explosions targeted a Turkish peace rally Saturday in Ankara, killing at least 95 people and wounding hundreds in Turkey's deadliest attack in years - one that threatens to inflame the nation's ethnic tensions.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said there were "strong signs" that the two explosions - which struck 50 meters (yards) apart just after 10 a.m. - were suicide bombings. He suggested that Kurdish rebels or Islamic State group militants were to blame.

WARNING: SOME READERS MAY CONSIDER THESE IMAGES DISTURBING:

18 PHOTOS
Twin suicide bombings in Ankara, Turkey
See Gallery
Suicide bombings kill 95 people at Ankara peace rally
ANKARA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 10: People react at the site of an explosion close to Ankara's main train station on October 10, 2015 in Ankara, Turkey. An explosion hit Ankara train station Saturday morning leaving 30 people dead and 126 others injured, as many people gathered outside the station for a peace demonstration to be held in nearby at Sihhiye Square. (Photo by Volkan Furuncu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ANKARA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 10: People react at the site of an explosion close to Ankara's main train station on October 10, 2015 in Ankara, Turkey. An explosion hit Ankara train station Saturday morning leaving 30 people dead and 126 others injured, as many people gathered outside the station for a peace demonstration to be held in nearby at Sihhiye Square. (Photo by Ercin Top/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ANKARA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 10: (EDITORS NOTE: Image contains graphic content.) victims at the blast scene after an explosion during a peace march in Ankara, October 10, 2015 in Ankara, Turkey. At least 30 people have been killed and 130 people wounded in twin explosions outside the main train station in the Turkish capital Ankara where people were gathering for a peace march. (Photo by Gokhan Tan/Getty Images)
ANKARA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 10: A wounded man lays on the ground at the site of an explosion close to Ankara's main train station on October 10, 2015 in Ankara, Turkey. An explosion hit Ankara train station Saturday morning leaving 30 people dead and 126 others injured, as many people gathered outside the station for a peace demonstration to be held in nearby at Sihhiye Square. (Photo by Volkan Furuncu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
An injured woman is comforted following an explosion at the main train station in Turkey's capital Ankara, on October 10, 2015. At least 30 people were killed and 126 were injured in the explosion which happened ahead of an anti-government peace rally organised by leftist groups later in the day, including the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP). AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN (Photo credit should read ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)
ANKARA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 10: People are seen at the site of an explosion close to Ankara's main train station on October 10, 2015 in Ankara, Turkey. An explosion hit Ankara train station Saturday morning leaving 30 people dead and 126 injured, as many people gathered outside the station for a peace demonstration to be held in nearby at Sihhiye Square. (Photo by Binnur Ege Gurun/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ANKARA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 10: Dead bodies of the victims lay on the ground at the site of an explosion close to Ankara's main train station on October 10, 2015 in Ankara, Turkey. An explosion hit Ankara train station Saturday morning leaving 30 people dead and 126 injured, as many people gathered outside the station for a peace demonstration to be held in nearby at Sihhiye Square. (Photo by Binnur Ege Gurun/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ANKARA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 10: A woman rat the site of an explosion close to Ankara's main train station on October 10, 2015 in Ankara, Turkey. An explosion hit Ankara train station Saturday morning leaving 30 people dead and 126 injured, as many people gathered outside the station for a peace demonstration to be held in nearby at Sihhiye Square. (Photo by Binnur Ege Gurun/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ANKARA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 10: People are seen at the site of an explosion close to Ankara's main train station on October 10, 2015 in Ankara, Turkey. An explosion hit Ankara train station Saturday morning leaving dozens of people dead and injured, as many people gathered outside the station for a peace demonstration to be held in nearby at Sihhiye Square. (Photo by Ercin Top/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
An injured person is caried away following a blast at a peace rally in Ankara on October 10, 2015. At least 30 people were feared dead in twin explosions in Turkey's capital Ankara, targeting activists gathering for a peace rally organised by leftist and pro-Kurdish groups. AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN (Photo credit should read ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)
ANKARA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 10: People carry a wounded person at the site of an explosion close to Ankara's main train station on October 10, 2015 in Ankara, Turkey. An explosion hit Ankara train station Saturday morning leaving dozens of people dead and injured, as many people gathered outside the station for a demonstration to be held in nearby at Sihhiye Square. (Photo by Serhan Bascuhadar/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ANKARA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 10: A view of the site of an explosion close to Ankara's main train station on October 10, 2015 in Ankara, Turkey. An explosion hit Ankara train station Saturday morning leaving dozens of people dead and injured, as many people gathered outside the station for a demonstration to be held in nearby at Sihhiye Square. (Photo by Volkan Furuncu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
People surround the area where bodies of victims are covered with flags and banners at the site of an explosion in Ankara, Turkey, Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015. Two bomb explosions apparently targeting a peace rally in Turkey's capital Ankara on Saturday has killed over a dozen people, a news agency and witnesses said. The explosions occurred minutes apart near Ankara's train station as people gathered for the rally organized by the country's public sector workers' trade union. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
People carry a wounded person from the area of an explosion in Ankara, Turkey, Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015. Two bomb explosions apparently targeting a peace rally in Turkey's capital Ankara on Saturday has killed over 10 people, a news agency and witnesses said. The explosions occurred minutes apart near Ankara's train station as people gathered for the rally organized by the country's public sector workers' trade union. (AP Photo/DHA) TURKEY OUT
Bodies of victims are covered with flags and banners at the site of an explosion in Ankara, Turkey, Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015. Two bomb explosions apparently targeting a peace rally in Turkey's capital Ankara on Saturday has killed over a dozen people, a news agency and witnesses said. The explosions occurred minutes apart near Ankara's train station as people gathered for the rally organized by the country's public sector workers' trade union. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
ANKARA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 10: A woman reacts at the site of an explosion close to Ankara's main train station on October 10, 2015 in Ankara, Turkey. An explosion hit Ankara train station Saturday morning leaving dozens of people dead and injured, as many people gathered outside the station for a peace demonstration to be held in nearby at Sihhiye Square. (Photo by Ege Gurun/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
People walk amongs the bodies of people killed in a blast at a peace rally in Ankara on October 10, 2015. At least 30 people were feared dead in twin explosions in Turkey's capital Ankara, targeting activists gathering for a peace rally organised by leftist and pro-Kurdish groups. AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN (Photo credit should read ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

The two explosions occurred seconds apart outside the capital's main train station as hundreds of opposition supporters and Kurdish activists gathered for the peace rally organized by Turkey's public workers' union and other groups. The protesters planned to call for increased democracy in Turkey and an end to the renewed violence between Kurdish rebels and Turkish security forces.

The attacks Saturday came at a tense time for Turkey, a NATO member that borders war-torn Syria, hosts more refugees than any other nation in the world and has seen renewed fighting with Kurdish rebels that has left hundreds dead in the last few months.

Many people at the rally had been anticipating that the rebels of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, would declare a temporary cease-fire - which it did hours after the bombing - to ensure that Turkey's Nov. 1 election would be held in a safe environment.

Television footage from Turkey's Dogan news agency showed a line of protesters Saturday near Ankara's train station, chanting and performing a traditional dance with their hands locked when a large explosion went off behind them. An Associated Press photographer saw several bodies covered with bloodied flags and banners that demonstrators had brought for the rally.

"There was a massacre in the middle of Ankara," said Lami Ozgen, head of the Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions, or KESK.

The state-run Anadolu Agency said the attacks were carried out with TNT explosives fortified with metal ball-bearings.

Turkey's government late Saturday raised the death toll in the twin bomb blasts to 95 people killed, 248 wounded. It said 48 of the wounded were in serious condition - and a doctor's group said many of them had burns.

"This massacre targeting a pro-Kurdish but mostly Turkish crowd could flame ethnic tensions in Turkey," said Soner Cagaptay, an analyst at the Washington Institute.

Cagaptay said the attack could be the work of groups "hoping to induce the PKK, or its more radical youth elements, to continue fighting Turkey," adding that the Islamic State group would benefit most from the full-blown Turkey-PKK conflict.

"(That) development could make ISIS a secondary concern in the eyes of many Turks to the PKK," Cagaptay said in emailed comments, using another acronym for IS militants.

Small anti-government protests broke out at the scene of the explosions and outside Ankara hospitals as Interior Minister Selami Altinok visited the wounded. Some demonstrators chanted "Murderer Erdogan!" - referring to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whom many accuse of increasing tensions with Kurds to profit at the ballot box in November. Erdogan denies the accusations.

Later Saturday, thousands gathered near Istanbul's main square denouncing the attacks and also holding the government responsible.

The Turkish government imposed a temporary news blackout covering images that showed the moment of the blasts, gruesome or bloody pictures or "images that create a feeling of panic." A spokesman warned media organizations they could face a "full blackout" if they did not comply.

Many people reported being unable to access Twitter and other social media websites for several hours after the blasts. It was not clear if authorities had blocked access to the websites, but Turkey often does impose blackouts following attacks.

At a news conference, Davutoglu declared a three-day official mourning period for the blast victims and said Turkey had been warned about groups aiming to destabilize the country.

"For some time, we have been receiving intelligence information based from some (Kurdish rebel) and Daesh statements that certain suicide attackers would be sent to Turkey... and that through these attackers chaos would be created in Turkey," Davutoglu told reporters, using the IS group's Arabic acronym.

"The (Kurdish rebels) or Daesh could emerge (as culprits) of today's terror event," Davutoglu said, promising that those behind the attacks would be caught and punished.

Davutoglu said authorities had detained at least two suspected would-be suicide bombers in the past three days in Ankara and Istanbul.

Authorities had been on alert after Turkey agreed to take a more active role in the U.S.-led battle against the Islamic State group. Turkey opened up its bases to U.S. aircraft to launch air raids on the extremist group in Syria and carried out a limited number of strikes on the group itself. Russia has also entered the fray on behalf of the Syrian government recently, bombing sites in Syria and reportedly violating Turkish airspace a few times in the past week.

On a separate front, the fighting between Turkish forces and Kurdish rebels flared anew in July, killing at least 150 police and soldiers and hundreds of PKK rebels since then. Turkish jets have also carried out numerous deadly airstrikes on Kurdish rebel targets in northern Iraq.

Erdogan condemned Saturday's attacks, which he said targeted the country's unity, called for solidarity and canceled a planned visit Monday to Turkmenistan.

"The greatest and most meaningful response to this attack is the solidarity and determination we will show against it," Erdogan said.

President Barack Obama offered condolences to Erdogan in a phone call Saturday. The White House said in a statement that Obama affirmed that the U.S. will stand with Turkey in the fight against terrorism.

Critics have accused Erdogan of re-igniting the fighting with the Kurds to seek electoral gains - hoping that the turmoil would rally voters back to the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP. Electoral gains by the country's pro-Kurdish party caused the AKP, founded by Erdogan, to lose its parliamentary majority in a June election after a decade of single-party rule.

The attacks Saturday, which even surpassed twin al-Qaida-linked attacks in Istanbul in 2003 that killed some 60 people, also drew widespread condemnation from Turkey's allies.

Turkey's state-run news agency said President Barack Obama called Erdogan to extend his condolences. The Anadolu Agency, citing unnamed officials, said Obama told Erdogan the United States would continue to side with Turkey in the fight against terrorism. It quoted Obama as saying the U.S. "shared Turkey's grief."

Erdogan earlier said the twin bombings aimed to destroy Turkey's "peace and stability." Anadolu said the two leaders agreed to talk more in the coming days.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel sent her condolences, calling the attacks "particularly cowardly acts that were aimed directly at civil rights, democracy and peace."

"It is an attempt at intimidation and an attempt to spread fear," she said. "I am convinced that the Turkish government and all of Turkish society stands together at this time with a response of unity and democracy."

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said "there can be no justification for such a horrendous attack on people marching for peace... All NATO allies stand united in the fight against the scourge of terrorism."

Click through to see images from the attack on Suruc:

19 PHOTOS
Turkey explosion Suruc
See Gallery
Suicide bombings kill 95 people at Ankara peace rally
The dead bodies of victims lie on the ground after an explosion rocked the Turkish city of Suruc near the Syrian border on Monday, July 20, 2015, killing tens of people and wounding nearly 100 others in what Turkish authorities said appeared to be an Islamic State-inspired suicide bombing.(AP Photo)
A Turkish forensic expert looks at the site of an explosion in the town of Suruc, not far from the Syrian border, on July 20, 2015. At least 30 people were killed and hundreds injured in a suicide bombing aiming the garden of a cultural centre where young left-wing activists and pro-Kurds lived. Turkish officials largely blamed the attack on Islamic State militants. AFP PHOTO / ILYAS AKENGIN (Photo credit should read ILYAS AKENGIN/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman cries next to the coffin of a victim on July 20, 2015 after an explosion in the town of Suruc, not far from the Syrian border. At least 30 people were killed and hundreds injured in a suicide bombing aiming the garden of a cultural centre where young left-wing activists and pro-Kurds lived. Turkish officials largely blamed the attack on Islamic State militants. AFP PHOTO / ILYAS AKENGIN (Photo credit should read ILYAS AKENGIN/AFP/Getty Images)
People carry the coffins of victims after an explosion rocked the Turkish city of Suruc near the Syrian border on Monday, July 20, 2015, killing tens of people and wounding nearly 100 others in what Turkish authorities said appeared to be an Islamic State-inspired suicide bombing. (AP Photo)
A wounded woman, left, holds by the hand of another woman who is about to die just after an explosion rocked the Turkish city of Suruc near the Syrian border on Monday, July 20, 2015, killing 28 people and wounding nearly 100 others in what Turkish authorities said appeared to be an Islamic State-inspired suicide bombing. The mid-day explosion took place at a cultural center in Suruc as a political group, the Federation of Socialist Youths, was wrapping up a news conference on plans to rebuild the Syrian city of Kobani, a witness said.(AP Photo/Zeki Yavuzak) TURKEY OUT
People carry the coffins of victims after an explosion rocked the Turkish city of Suruc near the Syrian border on Monday, July 20, 2015, killing tens of people and wounding nearly 100 others in what Turkish authorities said appeared to be an Islamic State-inspired suicide bombing. (AP Photo)
A protester raises his fist as he chants slogans during a protest in Istanbul, Monday, July 20, 2015 against the deaths of dozens of people in an explosion in southeastern Turkey. The mid-day explosion took place at a cultural center in Suruc, near the Syrian border on Monday, in what Turkish authorities said appeared to be an Islamic State-inspired suicide bombing. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
Dead bodies are covered by newspapers at the explosion site where tens of people were killed and scores others injured, in the southeastern Turkish city of Suruc near the Syrian border, Turkey, Monday, July 20, 2015. A midday explosion in Turkey’s southeastern city of Suruc near the Syrian border killed 28 people Monday and sent nearly 100 others to the hospital, Turkish officials said. The prime minister’s office gave the casualty toll in a phone call to The Associated Press. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast. (AP Photo)
Turkish policemen stand next to bodies of victims on July 20, 2015 after an explosion in the town of Suruc, not far from the Syrian border. At least 30 people were killed and hundreds injured in a suicide bombing aiming the garden of a cultural centre where young left-wing activists and pro-Kurds lived. Turkish officials largely blamed the attack on Islamic State militants. AFP PHOTO / ILYAS AKENGIN (Photo credit should read ILYAS AKENGIN/AFP/Getty Images)
Dead bodies are covered by newspapers at the site of an explosion that killed tens of people and injured scores others is seen in the southeastern Turkish city of Suruc near the Syrian border, Turkey, Monday, July 20, 2015. A midday explosion in Turkey’s southeastern city of Suruc near the Syrian border killed 28 people Monday and sent nearly 100 others to the hospital, Turkish officials said. The prime minister’s office gave the casualty toll in a phone call to The Associated Press. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast. (AP Photo)
Turkish forensic experts work on the site where bodies lie after an explosion in the town of Suruc, not far from the Syrian border, on July 20, 2015. At least 30 people were killed and hundreds injured in a suicide bombing aiming the garden of a cultural centre where young left-wing activists and pro-Kurds lived. Turkish officials largely blamed the attack on Islamic State militants. AFP PHOTO / ILYAS AKENGIN (Photo credit should read ILYAS AKENGIN/AFP/Getty Images)
A wounded man waits for medical attention shortly after an explosion in the southeastern Turkish city of Suruc near the Syrian border, Turkey, Monday, July 20, 2015, An explosion Monday killed at least 10 people and injured scores of others in the southeastern Turkish city of Suruc near the Syrian border, state-run Turkish news agencies reported. The private Turkish DHA news agency said at least 50 people had been hospitalized in the midday explosion. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast. (AP Photo/Ozcan Soysal ) TURKEY OUT
Dead bodies are covered by newspapers at the explosion site where tens of people were killed and scores others injured, in the southeastern Turkish city of Suruc near the Syrian border, Turkey, Monday, July 20, 2015. A midday explosion in Turkey’s southeastern city of Suruc near the Syrian border killed 28 people Monday and sent nearly 100 others to the hospital, Turkish officials said. The prime minister’s office gave the casualty toll in a phone call to The Associated Press. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast. (AP Photo)
Locals stand at the explosion site where tens of people were killed and scores others injured, in the southeastern Turkish city of Suruc near the Syrian border, Turkey, Monday, July 20, 2015. A midday explosion in Turkey’s southeastern city of Suruc near the Syrian border killed 28 people Monday and sent nearly 100 others to the hospital, Turkish officials said. The prime minister’s office gave the casualty toll in a phone call to The Associated Press. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast. (AP Photo)
Officials carry the bodies of victims on July 20, 2015 after an explosion in the town of Suruc, not far from the Syrian border. At least 30 people were killed and hundreds injured in a suicide bombing aiming the garden of a cultural centre where young left-wing activists and pro-Kurds lived. Turkish officials largely blamed the attack on Islamic State militants. AFP PHOTO / ILYAS AKENGIN (Photo credit should read ILYAS AKENGIN/AFP/Getty Images)
People help the wounded after an explosion in the southeastern Turkish city of Suruc near the Syrian border, Turkey, Monday, July 20, 2015. An explosion Monday killed at least 10 people and injured scores of others in the southeastern Turkish city of Suruc near the Syrian border, state-run Turkish news agencies reported. The private Turkish DHA news agency said at least 50 people had been hospitalized in the midday explosion. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast. (AP Photo/Ozcan Soysal ) TURKEY OUT
Bodies lie on the ground with one being covered with a Federation of the Socialist Youth Associations flag, after an explosion, in the southeastern Turkish city of Suruc near the Syrian border, Turkey, Monday, July 20, 2015. An explosion Monday killed at least 10 people and injured scores of others in the southeastern Turkish city of Suruc near the Syrian border, state-run Turkish news agencies reported. The private Turkish DHA news agency said at least 50 people had been hospitalized in the midday explosion. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast. (AP Photo/Ozcan Soysal ) TURKEY OUT
Dead bodies are covered by newspapers at the site of an explosion that killed tens of people and injured scores others is seen in the southeastern Turkish city of Suruc near the Syrian border, Turkey, Monday, July 20, 2015. A midday explosion in Turkey’s southeastern city of Suruc near the Syrian border killed 28 people Monday and sent nearly 100 others to the hospital, Turkish officials said. The prime minister’s office gave the casualty toll in a phone call to The Associated Press. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast. (AP Photo)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

Saturday was the third attack against meetings of Kurdish activists. In July, a suicide bombing blamed on the Islamic State group killed 33 peace activists, including many Kurds, in the town of Suruc near Turkey's border with Syria. Two people were killed in June in a bomb attack at the pro-Kurdish party's election rally.

"This attack (Saturday) resembles and is a continuation of the Diyarbakir and Suruc (attacks)," said Selahattin Demirtas, leader of the Turkey's pro-Kurdish party. He held Erdogan and Davutoglu's government responsible for the latest attack, saying it was "carried out by the state against the people."

In the aftermath of the Ankara attack, the PKK declared a temporary cease-fire. A rebel statement said Saturday the group is halting hostilities to allow the Nov. 1 election to proceed safely. It said it would not launch attacks but would defend itself.

The government has said there would be no letup in its fight against the Kurdish rebels.

"Our operations (against the PKK) will continue until they lay down arms," Davutoglu said late Friday.

WATCH MORE: Deadly explosion rips through peace rally in Ankara:

Deadly Explosion Rips Through Peace Rally in Ankara

More from AOL.com:
The ocean contains half the fish it had 50 years ago
State Police looking for help solving death 43 years later
Was Dr. Ben Carson really held at gunpoint at Popeyes?

Read Full Story

People are Reading