In Turkey / Türkiye

Today’s Zaman, Wednesday, Feb 17, 2016 (with photos and video)

Assailants on Wednesday exploded a car bomb near vehicles carrying military personnel in the Turkish capital, killing at least 28 people and wounding dozens others, officials said.

Car bomb explosion in Ankara Feb 17, 2016 (photo by Mustafa Kirazlı, Today's Zaman)

Car bomb explosion in Ankara Feb 17, 2016 (photo by Mustafa Kirazlı, Today’s Zaman)

The explosion occurred during evening rush hour in the heart of Ankara, in an area close to where military headquarters and parliament are located. Buses carrying military personnel were attacked while waiting at traffic lights at an intersection, the Turkish military said while condemning the “contemptible and dastardly” attack.

Deputy Prime Minister and government spokesman Numan Kurtulmus said 28 people were killed and 61 others were injured in the attack. He said the government has no information on who carried out the attack.

Kurtulmus confirmed that Wednesday’s explosion was caused by a car bomb and targeted military vehicles that were carrying armed forces personnel. “We believe that those who lost their lives included our military brothers as well as civilians,” he added.

He said seven prosecutors have been assigned to investigate the attack, which he described as “well-planned.” Kurtulmus said no group had yet claimed responsibility, but pledged authorities would find those behind the attack.

A health ministry official said the authorities were still trying to determine the number of dead and wounded, who had been taken to several hospitals in the area. Ankara police said they were examining CCTV footage of the car used in the attack.

“I heard a huge explosion. There was smoke and a really strong smell even though we were blocks away,” a Reuters witness said.

Ömer Çelik, a spokesman for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), wrote in Twitter that the explosion was an “act of terrorism.”

Photo shared on social media shows smoke rising after huge blast in central Ankara on Feb 17, 2016 (from Today's Zaman)

Photo shared on social media shows smoke rising after huge blast in central Ankara on Feb 17, 2016 (from Today’s Zaman)

The explosion took place in a central area of Ankara, in close proximity to the Turkish General Staff headquarters, the Prime Ministry, Parliament and Defense Ministry. It happened during the rush hour, raising fear that the casualties might increase.

Twenty ambulances were sent to the scene of the blast, the Health Ministry officials were quoted as saying by private broadcaster CNN Türk.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the authorities have received information about the blast and were looking into it. Davutoglu was scheduled to depart for Brussels for a visit later this evening but he canceled the trip and headed to the presidential palace to attend a last-minute security summit. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan chaired the meeting which was attended by the top commanders and senior government officials.

Erdogan also postponed a planned visit to Azerbaijan after the bombing, presidential sources said on Wednesday.

Erdogan, who was due to visit Azerbaijan on Thursday, called Azerbaijani President Ilham Alyev and told him it would not be appropriate to visit now, the sources said.

Turkey’s broadcasting watchdog RTÜK imposed a broadcasting ban on the explosion.

A security official told Reuters that initial signs indicate that the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) was behind the Ankara bombing. However, separate security sources in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast gave a different account, saying they believed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants were behind the bombing.

Images showed the charred wreckage of at least two buses and a car. The explosion, which came shortly after 6:30 pm (1630 GMT), sent a large plume of smoke above central Ankara.

Wednesday’s attack comes at a tense time when the Turkish government is facing an array of challenges. A fragile peace process with the PKK collapsed in the summer. The Turkish security forces have been engaged in large-scale operations against PKK terrorists [sic] in the southeast since December, imposing controversial curfews in flashpoint areas, and the fighting has displaced tens of thousands of civilians.

Turkey has also been helping efforts led by the United States to combat the ISIL group in neighboring Syria, and has faced several deadly bombings in the last year that were blamed on ISIL.

The Syrian war, meanwhile, is raging along Turkey’s southern border. Recent airstrikes by Russian and Syrian forces have prompted tens of thousands of Syrian refugees to flee to Turkey’s border. Turkey so far has refused to let them in, despite being urged to do so by the United Nations and European nations, but is sending aid to Syrian refugee camps right across the border.

Read also:
Three political parties in Parliament issue joint declaration to condemn terror , Today’s Zaman, Feb 17, 2016

Three political parties represented in the Turkish Parliament issued a joint declaration late on Wednesday to condemn terrorism in the wake of a terrorist attack in the Turkish capital earlier in the day that killed at least 28 people.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and opposition parties Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) signed the declaration while pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic People’s Party (HDP) did not approve the declaration on the grounds that it fails to condemn earlier terrorist attacks in Diyarbakir, Suruç and Ankara…

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