Although I’m on semi-hiatus for the rest of the month, Saturday’s terrorist strike on a wedding in the Turkish city of Gaziantep, which killed 54 people at last count, warrants at least a mention. Of those 54 killed, 22 were reportedly under the age of 14. ISIS is the obvious suspect, and the Turkish government seems to be working under the assumption that they were behind the bombing, but there’s been no claim of responsibility–which is ISIS’s standard operating procedure when it comes to attacks inside Turkey–and thus no confirmation. Although Ankara initially reported that the bomber himself was a teenager, aged 12-14, now they seem to be backing off of that claim:
On Monday, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, speaking to reporters in the capital of Ankara, said Turkey does not know who was behind the attack. He said it’s unclear at the present time whether the attacker was “a child or an adult.”
It is rumored that the attacker was a child, Yildirim said.
“The security forces are focusing on it and trying to find clues related to it,” the prime minister said.
It’s entirely possible that the bomber was a child–as CNN reports in that story, a 15 year old would-be ISIS suicide bomber was picked up in Kirkuk, Iraq, on Sunday–but Turkish authorities had said they were looking for one or two adults who were seen accompanying the child bomber to the target and then fleeing before the bomb detonated. If they’re no longer sure that the bomber was a child, I assume the story about the fleeing adults has also come into question.
The casualties appear to be mostly Kurdish. Gaziantep has a sizable Kurdish population, and one of the people getting married is reportedly a member of the predominantly Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). So a number of other HDP members were in attendance. In this sense, the attack is reminiscent of suspected ISIS suicide bombings in Suruç last July and in Ankara last October, both of which targeted gatherings of mostly Kurds. Those attacks served to increase tensions between the Turkish government and the Kurds, particularly the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)–the Suruç bombing alone was effectively responsible for restarting hostilities between the two after a couple of years of attempted peace talks. This is, of course, ISIS’s goal in carrying out these attacks, and the Turkish government and the PKK have consistently been happy to help them achieve it. There’s no sign that the aftermath of this attack will be any different, as high-ranking Turkish political leaders continue to treat the PKK and ISIS (nowadays alongside the Fethullah Gülen “Terrorist Organization”) as all one thing (“terrorists”) despite the many differences between them.