Islamic State is prime suspect in Turkey bombing, as protests erupt

Thousands Protest in Turkey as Bomb Blast Death Toll Rises


Turkey's government said on Monday Islamic State was the prime suspect in suicide bombings that killed at least 97 people in Ankara, but opponents vented anger at President Tayyip Erdogan at funerals, universities and courthouses.

The father of three men wounded in the blasts told Reuters one of his sons had described seeing one of the bombers carrying a bag on his back and one in his hand, and called out "stop" before the bomb detonated.

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Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Saturday's attack, the worst of its kind on Turkish soil, was intended to influence the outcome of November polls Erdogan hopes will restore a majority the ruling AK party lost in June. Officials say there is no question of postponing the vote.

Two bombs struck seconds apart, targeting a rally of pro-Kurdish activists and civic groups near Ankara's main train station.

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Twin suicide bombings in Ankara, Turkey
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Islamic State is prime suspect in Turkey bombing, as protests erupt
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)
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)
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"If you consider the way the attack happened and the general trend of it, we have identified Islamic State as the primary focus," Davutoglu told Turkey's NTV television. "It was definitely a suicide bombing...DNA tests are being conducted. It was determined how the suicide bombers got there. We're close to a name, which points to one group."

The Haberturk newspaper has cited police sources as saying the type of explosive and the choice of target pointed to a group within Islamic State known as the 'Adiyaman ones', a reverence to Adiyaman province in southeastern Turkey.

Turkey is vulnerable to infiltration by Islamic State, which holds swathes of Syrian land abutting Turkey where some two million refugees live. But there has been no word from the group - usually swift to publicly claim responsibility for any attack it conducts - over the Ankara bombing or two very similar incidents earlier this year.

Opponents of Erdogan, who has led the country over 13 years, blame him for the attack, accusing the state at best of intelligence failings and at worst of complicity by stirring up nationalist, anti-Kurdish sentiment.

The government, facing a growing Kurdish conflict at home and the spillover of war in Syria, vehemently denies such accusations.

But the sheer range of possible perpetrators - from Islamic State and Marxist radicals to militant nationalists and Kurdish armed factions - highlights deep fissures running through Turkish society. At stake is the stability of a NATO country seen by the West as a bulwark against Middle Eastern turmoil.

Related gallery: See pictures of the ongoing crisis:

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Turkey, Syria, and ISIS fighting history
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Islamic State is prime suspect in Turkey bombing, as protests erupt
Protesters run away from tear gas during a demostration in Istanbul on July 24, 2015. Turkey detained 251 people in coordinated nationwide dawn raids against suspected Islamic State (IS) jihadists and Kurdish militants following a wave of deadly violence in the country, the prime minister's office said.AFP PHOTO/OZAN KOSE (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
Turkish riot police fire rubber bullets to disperse protesters during a demostration in Istanbul on July 24, 2015. Turkey detained 251 people in coordinated nationwide dawn raids against suspected Islamic State (IS) jihadists and Kurdish militants following a wave of deadly violence in the country, the prime minister's office said.AFP PHOTO/OZAN KOSE (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
ADANA, TURKEY - JULY 24: A military aircraft of Turkish Air Force lands at the Incirlik 10th Tanker Base Command in Saricam district, Adana on July 24, 2015. On Friday, Turkish F-16 fighter jets hit three Daesh targets in Syria in the morning. Turkish jets carried out the operation without violating the Syrian airspace, according to a statement by the Prime Ministry. (Photo by Ibrahim Erikan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A Syrian Kurdish woman sits by the window of a house in Suruc in Turkey's Sanliurfa province near the border with Syria on June 27, 2015. Kurdish forces drove Islamic State group fighters from the flashpoint Syrian border town of Kobane, after a killing spree by the jihadists left more than 200 civilians dead. AFP PHOTO / BULENT KILIC (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken from the Turkish side of the border in Suruc, Sanliurfa province, shows a Turkish solider standing as smoke rises from the Syrian town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, on June 27, 2015, a day after a deadly suicide bombing occurred. The Islamic State group killed 164 civilians in its offensive on the Kurdish town of Kobane, in what a monitor Friday called one of the jihadists' 'worst massacres' in Syria. AFP PHOTO/BULENT KILIC (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
KOBANE, SYRIA - JUNE 20: (TURKEY OUT) A Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG fighters stand near a check point in the outskirts of the destroyed Syrian town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, Syria. June 20, 2015. Kurdish fighters with the YPG took full control of Kobane and strategic city of Tal Abyad, dealing a major blow to the Islamic State group's ability to wage war in Syria. Mopping up operations have started to make the town safe for the return of residents from Turkey, after more than a year of Islamic State militants holding control of the town. (Photo by Ahmet Sik/Getty Images)
TAL ABYAD, SYRIA - JUNE 20: (TURKEY OUT) The picture shows the wreckage left by fighting on a street in the center of the Syrian town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, Syria. June 20, 2015. Kurdish fighters with the YPG took full control of Kobane and strategic city of Tal Abyad, dealing a major blow to the Islamic State group's ability to wage war in Syria. Mopping up operations have started to make the town safe for the return of residents from Turkey, after more than a year of Islamic State militants holding control of the town. (Photo by Ahmet Sik/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - JUNE 16: Turkish soldiers patrol as Syrian refugees walk to cross the Akcakale border gate in Sanliurfa province, Turkey, June 16, 2015. Kurdish fighters took full control on Tuesday of the border town of Tal Abyad, dealing a major blow to the Islamic State group's ability to wage war in Syria by cutting off a vital supply line to its self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa. According to Turkish security officials 10,000 people to come across from Syria in last three days.(Photo by Gokhan Sahin/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 10: Heavy smoke from a fire caused by a strike rises in Kobani, Syria as fighting intensified between Syrian Kurds and the militants of Islamic State group, as seen from Mursitpinar in the outskirts of Suruc, at the Turkey-Syria border, October 10, 2014. Kobani, also known as Ayn Arab, and its surrounding areas, has been under assault by extremists of the Islamic State group since mid-September and is being defended by Kurdish fighters. (Photo by Gokhan Sahin/Getty Images)
A Turkish soldier stands on a hill, facing the Islamic State (IS) fighters' new position, 10km west of the Syrian city of Ain al-Arab (Kobane) near the Syrian border at the southeastern town of Suruc in the Sanliurfa province on October 2, 2014. Islamic State fighters were at the gates on October 2 of a key Kurdish town on the Syrian border with Turkey, whose parliament was set to vote on authorising military intervention against the jihadists. Kurdish militiamen backed by US-led air strikes were locked in fierce fighting to prevent the besieged border town of Kobane from falling to IS group fighters. AFP PHOTO/BULENT KILIC (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
A member of Turkish medical service stands in the southeastern town of Suruc in the Sanliurfa province as Syrian Kurds cross the border between Syria and Turkey on October 1, 2014. Tens of thousands of Syrian Kurds flooded into Turkey fleeing an onslaught by the Islamic State (IS) group that prompted an appeal for international intervention. Some of the refugees now want to return to protect their homes and join the fight against IS militants. AFP PHOTO/BULENT KILIC (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - SEPTEMBER 29: (TURKEY OUT) Border village of Alizar residents keep guard during the night and wait in fear from mortar fired from Islamic State fighters as they tightened their siege of the strategic town of Kobani on Syria's border with Turkey on September 29, 2014 in Sanliurfa, Turkey. Tonight more than 20 mortars hit Turkey's southeastern Turkish town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province. Turkish troops could be used to help set up a secure zone in Syria, if there was an international agreement to establish such a haven for refugees fleeing Islamic State fighters, President Tayyip Erdogan said in comments published on Saturday. Militants still held their positions around 10 kilometres west of Kobane inside Syria, witnesses said, with Kurdish positions the last line of defence between the fighters and the town. Kobane sits on a road linking north and northwestern Syria and Kurdish control of the town has prevented Islamic State fighters from consolidating their gains, although their advance has caused more than 150,000 Kurds to flee to Turkey since last week. (Photo by Stringer/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - SEPTEMBER 28: Smoke is seen rising from the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani following an explosion that was followed by further fighting, which saw IS fighters shoot into Turkey for the first time on September 28, 2014 south of Sanliurfa, Turkey. Islamic State (IS, also called ISIS and ISIL) fighters are reportedly advancing with heavy weaponry on the strategic Kurdish border town of Kobani (also called Ayn Al-Arab), which they have surrounded on three sides. Several hundred thousand refugees are reportedly in Kobani and aid agencies are bracing for a massive exodus into Turkey. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
A Kurdish boy stands as another waves to other side near the Syrian border at Suruc in Sanliurfa province, on September 25, 2014. The numbers of Kurdish refugees fleeing into Turkey to escape the advance of Islamic State jihadists in northern Syria has slowed considerably over the last few days, Turkish officials said on September 24.. AFP PHOTO/BULENT KILIC (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 23: (TURKEY-OUT) Smoke and dust rise over Syrian town of Kobani after an airstrike, as seen from the Mursitpinar crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, October 23, 2014. The Syrian town of Kobani has yet again seen fierce fighting between Islamic State and Syrian Kurdish forces. Kurdish authorities have agreed to send Peshmerga fighters to the Northern Syrian town to fight ISIL after Turkey has allowed passage. (Photo by Kutluhan Cucel/Getty Images)
ADANA, TURKEY - AUGUST 09: A military aircraft belonging to the United States Air Forces lands on the runway at Incirlik Base in Adana, Turkey on August 9, 2015. Eight military aircrafts belonging to the United States Air Forces were sent to Incirlik Base in Adana as part of the operations against Daesh. (Photo by Volkan Kasik/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ADANA, TURKEY - AUGUST 09: A military aircraft belonging to the United States Air Forces lands on the runway at Incirlik Base in Adana, Turkey on August 9, 2015. Eight military aircrafts belonging to the United States Air Forces were sent to Incirlik Base in Adana as part of the operations against Daesh. (Photo by Volkan Kasik/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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PROTESTS

Hundreds chanting anti-government slogans marched on a mosque in an Istanbul suburb for the funeral of several of the victims, attended by Selahattin Demirtas, leader of the pro-Kurdish parliamentary opposition Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), which says it was the target of the bombings.

Riot police with water cannon and armored vehicles stood by as the crowd, some chanting "Thief, Murderer Erdogan" and waving HDP flags, moved towards the mosque in the working class Umraniye neighborhood of Istanbul.

Several labor unions also called protests. Hundreds of people, many wearing doctors' uniforms and carrying Turkish Medical Association banners, gathered by the main train station in Ankara where the explosions happened to lay red carnations but were blocked by riot police, a Reuters witness said.

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Turkey blasts, Ankara, funerals and protests
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Islamic State is prime suspect in Turkey bombing, as protests erupt
People gather and pray during the funeral of victims of the twin bombings in Ankara, on October 12, 2015 in Istanbul . Turkey woke in mourning on October 11 after at least 95 people were killed by suspected suicide bombers at a peace rally of leftist and pro-Kurdish activists in Ankara, the deadliest such attack in the country's recent history AFP PHOTO /BULENT KILIC (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 12: A woman flashes victory sign as people attend the funeral ceremony held for Fatma Esen, who lost her life in Ankara train station bombings, in the Fatih district of Istanbul, Turkey on October 12, 2015. (Photo by Berk Ozkan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Relatives mourn near the coffin during the funeral in Istanbul on October 12, 2015 of one of the victims of the October 10 twin bombings in Ankara. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on October 12 said the Islamic State (IS) extremist group was the prime suspect in the double suicide bombings in Ankara that killed 97 and sparked anger over the authorities' failure to ensure security. AFP PHOTO / YASIN AKGUL (Photo credit should read YASIN AKGUL/AFP/Getty Images)
Women hold up the coffin during the funeral in Istanbul on October 12, 2015 of one of the female victims of the October 10 twin bombings in Ankara. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on October 12 said the Islamic State (IS) extremist group was the prime suspect in the double suicide bombings in Ankara that killed 97 and sparked anger over the authorities' failure to ensure security. AFP PHOTO / YASIN AKGUL (Photo credit should read YASIN AKGUL/AFP/Getty Images)
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Lawyers at an Istanbul courthouse chanted "Murderer Erdogan will give account" as colleagues applauded, footage circulated on social media showed.

Erdogan, accused by opponents of an increasingly authoritarian and divisive style, has overseen a purge in the judiciary of elements he believes to have been colluding with a U.S. based cleric-rival planning a coup against him.

SYRIA SPILLOVER

The HDP has put the death toll from the bombings at 128 and said it had identified all but eight of the bodies. Davutoglu's office has said 97 were killed.

The bombs struck as hundreds gathered for a march organized by pro-Kurdish activists and civic groups to protest over a growing conflict between Turkish security forces and Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants in the southeast.

The PKK is deemed a terrorist group by the United States and the EU as well as Turkey. Some 40,000 have been killed in the predominantly Kurdish southeast since the insurgency began in 1984.

Turkey-PKK Conflict 'Escalating Fast'

The father of three men wounded in the blasts said one of his sons, Abdulselam, described seeing one of the bombers carrying a bag on his back and one in his hand. He called out "stop" suspecting an attacker.

"The bomber panicked. Selam got nervous and acted without thinking. Maybe he could have had the chance to get him arrested, but he shouted to the bomber," the father, Mehmet Ali Altun, told Reuters outside the hospital where his sons were being treated. The son, who had been questioned by police, declined to speak to media.

The HDP accused Ankara of escalating violence to try to reduce its vote at Nov. 1 polls, restore an AK majority and pave the way for the more powerful presidential system Erdogan seeks.

The Ankara attack revived memories of a similar bombing of a pro-Kurdish rally in the southeastern town of Diyarbakir and another in Suruc in July that killed at least 30 and was also attributed to Islamic State. There was no claim of responsibility and HDP says there was no proper investigation.

"Our electorates feel under constant threat in every social space and political activity they attend," it said.

In comments reflecting the murky entanglements that exist in Turkish political thinking, the HDP also accused the AKP of relying on radical groups including Islamic State as proxies to fight Kurds in northern Syria. The government strongly denies such suggestions.

Tensions have further unnerved investors, many of whom have reduced their Turkeyexposure in recent months because of the election uncertainty. The lira weakened to 2.95 to the dollar TRYTOM=D3 early on Monday, making it the worst performing currency among major emerging markets.

AK Party spokesman Omer Celik told reporters the party was suspending its rallies until Friday. Demirtas said he no longer thought large rallies were possible amid the security fears but that it would be up to the HDP to decide.

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