Ankara explosions: At least 86 dead and 186 injured as blasts hit peace protest

Explosions happened ahead of a rally protesting against the conflict between the state and Kurdish militias

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The Independent Online

At least 86 people have been killed and more than 186 wounded in two suspected suicide bombings in the Turkish capital.

Hundreds of people were gathering for a peace rally outside Ankara’s main train station when the explosions hit the crowd.

Graphic images on social media showed bodies lying in the streets and the wounded sitting in shock, covered in blood.

Witnesses at the scene described survivors covering people’s bodies with flags and banners, including those of the pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), on roads filled with body parts and blood.

Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, said the UK "stands with the Turkish people" as rescue work continued.

"Appalled by the barbaric attacks in Ankara," he wrote on Twitter. "My thoughts are with the loved ones of those killed and injured."

Turkey’s Interior Ministry said the explosions were a terror attack, although there was no immediate claim of responsibility, and the health minister put the toll at 86 dead and 186 wounded.

There is strong evidence to suggest two suicide bombers carried out the massacre, the Prime Minister said. Ahmet Davutoglu declared three days of national mourning after the attack, which was the deadliest of its kind on Turkish soil.

Thorbjorn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, said: ”This is a ruthless and barbaric attack on peaceful demonstrators. Freedom of assembly and freedom of expression are fundamental pillars of democracy.”

The protest, organised by trade unions and supported by left-wing parties and pro-Kurdish groups, was being held to denounce the increased violence between Kurdish rebels and Turkish security forces.

Lami Ozgen, head of the Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions, which organised the protest, said two bombs “exploded in very short intervals”.

“There was a massacre in the middle of Ankara,” he added.

“We're ready to come together and work sincerely to finish terror,” the leader of the main opposition party, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, told reporters.

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Violence between Turkey and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants has flared in recent months, with Turkey launching operations in response to what it said were rising attacks on security forces in the predominantly Kurdish south-east. Hundreds have since died.

The country has been on high alert since starting its “synchronised war on terror” in July, including air strikes against Isis in Syria and Kurdish fighters with the People’s Defence Force in northern Iraq. 

It has also rounded up hundreds of suspected Kurdish and Islamist militants at home.

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An injured woman being helped following the explosion on Saturday morning.

An HDP rally in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir was bombed on the eve of the last election in June and a suicide bombing blamed on Isis killed 33 mainly pro-Kurdish activists in the town of Suruc, near the Syrian border, in July. 

The PKK called on its fighters and supporters to stop guerrilla activities in Turkey and only fight if they were directly attacked in the wake of Saturday’s bombing.

Firat news agency reported the head of the PKK as saying the decision was taken in response to calls from within and outside Turkey and that its fighters would avoid acts which could prevent a “fair and just election” being held on 1 November.

Additional reporting by Reuters and AP

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