Turkish authorities are saying that a boy between the ages of 12 and 14 carried out a devastating suicide bomb attack on a wedding party that killed at least 50 people and wounded almost 100.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the Islamic State was responsible for the carnage.
Erdogan added that there was “absolutely no difference” between ISIS, Kurdish rebels and the movement behind the U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, calling them terrorists.
The remains of a suicide vest have been recovered at the site, according to the state-run Anadolu Agency, citing a statement by the chief public prosecutor’s office.
Turkey has been the target of attacks in the past year that have been claimed by Kurdish militants linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) or were blamed on ISIS. In June, suspected Islamic State militants attacked Istanbul’s main airport with guns and bombs, killing 44 people. A dual suicide bombing blamed on ISIS at a peace rally in Turkey’s capital, Ankara, in October killed 103 victims.
Earlier this week, a string of bombings blamed on the PKK that targeted police and soldiers killed at least a dozen people. A fragile, 2 ½ year-long peace process between the PKK and the government collapsed last year, leading to a resumption of the three-decade-long conflict.
“This was a barbaric attack. It appears to be a suicide attack. All terror groups, the PKK, Daesh, the (Gulen movement) are targeting Turkey. But God willing, we will overcome,” Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek told NTV television.
Daesh is an Arabic name for ISIS.
Simsek later traveled to Gaziantep along with the country’s health minister to visit the wounded and inspect the site of the attack. He characterized the attack as “barbaric.”
“This is a massacre of unprecedented cruelty and barbarism,” he told reporters in Gaziantep. “We … are united against all terror organizations. They will not yield.”
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim condemned the bombing that turned “a wedding party into a place of mourning” and vowed to prevail over the “devilish” attacks.
“No matter what this treacherous terror organization is called, we as the people, the state, and the government will pursue our determined struggle against it,” he said.
The idea that the Gulen movement is the same as ISIS is absurd. Fethullah Gulen has spoken often against terrorism and suicide bombings. In fact, no terror attack has ever been connected to the Gulen movement. No one outside of Erdogan and his sycophants has offered any proof that the Gulen movement was behind the coup attempt.
Erdogan is cynically attempting to connect Gulen to ISIS in order to consolidate his gains from the post-coup purge and further discredit Gulen with the Turkish people. It’s likely that Gulen’s power in Turkey has been broken and now Erdogan wants to grind it into dust, never to rise again.
But you can appreciate the danger Turkey is in. Wracked by violence from the Kurdish PKK, which has been targeting soldiers and police and trying to hold off ISIS whose steady infiltration from Turkey’s neighbor Syria has led to several mass casualty attacks, Erdogan is using the violence as an excuse to further tighten his hold on power and demoralize the opposition.
Once a reasonably free, secular country, Turkey is fast becoming an Islamist dictatorship with all elements of Turkish society in Erdogan’s grip.