Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Suicide Bombings Kill 97 People at Ankara Peace Rally

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Suicide Bombings Kill 97 People at Ankara Peace Rally

Article excerpt

ANKARA, Turkey * Nearly simultaneous explosions targeted a Turkish peace rally Saturday in Ankara, killing at least 97 people and wounding scores in Turkey's deadliest attack in years one that threatens to inflame the nation's ethnic tension.

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

The two explosions happened 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. …

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