ANKARA –– Though no group has claimed responsibility for the deadly weekend bombings in Ankara, the focus of the investigation is the Islamic extremist group ISIS, Turkey’s Prime Minister said today.
Two suicide bombers are believed to have carried out Saturday’s attack near Ankara’s main train station, killing at least 97 people and wounding nearly 250 others, Turkey has said.
Authorities have begun to collect DNA samples from relatives of those suspected of having joined ISIS to help identify possible suspects in the bombings, Turkey’s semi-official Anadolu news agency reported.
Not specifically identifying any group behind the act, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told Turkish television station NTV today: “We investigate Daesh (ISIS) as our No. 1 priority. There [has] been good progress towards identifying a name. That name points to an organization.”
Davutoglu said his country had come face to face with suicide bombers a long time ago. “This attack will not turn Turkey into a Syria,” he said.
The weekend blasts targeted crowds at a lunchtime peace rally calling for an end to the renewed conflict between
the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and the Turkish government.
Kurdish forces have been battling ISIS jihadists across a swath of northern Iraq and Syria, and the Turkish government recently changed its stance to allow the United States to launch strikes on the militant group’s positions from Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey.
The huge explosions shook high-rise office buildings and left bodies, protest banners and flags scattered across the ground.
“This is an attack on the whole of Turkey. This is an attack directed at our democracy and at our people as a whole,” Davutoglu told NTV.
He said the attack was obviously intended to have an impact on Turkey’s elections scheduled in three weeks.
“There is also an attempt to cast shadow on the elections. One should not use this for small political calculations. Statements should not be made referring to the elections at this time,” he said.
Davutoglu said that he had considered suggesting to all party leaders that they agree not to hold any rallies
to avoid “provocation”.
Turkey declared three days of mourning over the bombings.