Dozens Killed in Turkey Blast Near Syria Border

Dozens Killed in Turkey Blast Near Syria BorderDozens Killed in Turkey Blast Near Syria Border

An explosion killed at least 27 people and wounded many more in the Turkish town of Suruc near the Syrian border, the interior ministry said.

The blast occurred in the garden of a cultural center. Hundreds of youth workers were staying there, BBC reported.

A group from Turkish left-wing youth associations were preparing to make a press statement in Suruc, to announce they would cross into Kobane, when the deadly explosion happened. The group was staying at the cultural center.

The reason of the explosion was not immediately known. Reports said it could have been a suicide attack.

Suruc, located near the Syrian town of Kobane, is home to one of the biggest refugee camps in Turkey housing Syrians who have fled the bloody four-year conflict at home. The camp, which opened in January, shelters about 35,000 refugees.

Kobane has been a battleground between militants from the Islamic State militant group and Kurdish YPG fighters since September last year, when IS overran the town, forcing most of its residents to flee into Turkey.

The Federation of Socialist Youth Associations is reported to have had at least 300 members staying at the Amara Culture Center to take part in rebuilding work in Kobane.

The federation tweeted photographs showing the group in the garden before the blast and the scene afterwards.

 Suicide Bombing Theory

The theory of a suicide bomber being behind the blast also appeared in Turkish media. Pervin Buldan, a senior lawmaker from Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, said local officials were investigating the possibility that it was a suicide bombing.

“Turkish and Kurdish youth had come to cross into Kobane, and there were three or four days of activities planned

HDP Deputy Leyla Guven also said it was “a big massacre” and the “probability of a suicide bomber is very high.”

Turkey’s Interior Ministry said there were concerns the death toll could rise.

“We call on everyone to stand together and remain calm in the face of this terrorist attack which targets the unity of our country.”

A witness described the scenes of the blast as “horrific.”

“I saw more than 20 bodies. I think the number of wounded is more than 50. They are still being put into ambulances.”

“Ambulances and private cars are picking up the wounded. Many were killed, 20 or 30. I am going to the hospital to help out,” said Adham Basho, a local politician, said.

Mahmut Boke, a municipal worker in Suruc, told Reuters by telephone, “There was a very violent explosion; we shook. There was a conference happening.”

Suruc Municipality posted on Twitter that “emergency blood” is needed following the explosion.

  Arrest of Militants

Television footage showed several people lying on the ground covered in blood and ambulances rushing to the scene.

The blast came as Turkey was stepping up its role in the fight against IS extremists.

Last week, security forces arrested dozens of militants and sympathizers in the most significant action by Ankara against the insurgents who have seized swathes of neighboring Iraq and Syria since 2014.

In January, Kurdish forces backed by militia groups and US-led airstrikes pushed IS out of Kobane after four months of fierce fighting in a hugely symbolic defeat for the extremists.

The militants made a surprise raid on the town in June but were driven back by Kurdish forces who took full control of the town.

However, IS launched a surprise attack on the Syrian town last month, staging three suicide bombings and reentering the town.

Turkey has been under international pressure to tighten the security of its volatile 911-km border with Syria to cut the flow of militants who try to join the ranks of the IS.

Ankara has vehemently denied claims of Turkish collusion with IS and in turn accused the West of not doing enough to help with the burden of Syrian refugees, 1.8 million of whom are living in Turkey.