ANKARA: Turkey on Sunday mourned the killing of at least 95 people in twin suspected suicide bombings on a peace rally in Ankara, its worst ever attack that raised fears for the country’s stability.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu declared three days of national mourning, with flags flying at half mast across the country, as questions grew over who might have planned such an attack.
Saturday’s bombings intensified tensions in Turkey ahead of snap elections on November 1 and as the government wages a relentless offensive against Kurdish militants.
“A bomb into our hearts,” read the headline in Hurriyet daily. “The deeply outraged public is waiting to find out who is behind the incident,” it added.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the “heinous” attack in a statement and canceled a visit to Turkmenistan. But he has yet to speak in public after the bombings.
A demonstration was expected later in Ankara to protest the violence after a rally in Istanbul late Saturday evening mobilized an estimated 10,000 people.
The premier’s office said that 95 people were killed when the bombs exploded just after 10:00 am (0700 GMT) as leftist and pro-Kurdish activists gathered for a peace rally outside Ankara’s train station.
It said that 246 people were wounded, with 48 still in intensive care. An AFP correspondent said that the scene of the blast was littered with ball bearings, indicating the explosions were intended to cause the maximum damage.
Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), one of the groups that called the peace rally, put the death toll at 128 in a tweet from their official account, but the government did not confirm this figure.
HDP leader Selahattin Demirtas blamed a “mafia state” and a “state mentality which acts like a serial killer” for the attack.
But the government rubbished the notion it was responsible and Interior Minister Selami Altinok insisted he would not resign.
The death toll surpassed that of the May 2013 twin bombings in Reyhanli on the Syrian border that killed over 50 people, making the attack the deadliest in the history of the Turkish Republic.
With international concern growing over instability in the key NATO member, US President Barack Obama offered his condolences to Erdogan and solidarity “in the fight against terrorism,” the White House said.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini urged Turkey to “stand united against terrorists.”
“This could well be Turkey’s 9/11,” said Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Research Program at The Washington Institute, referring to the September 11, 2001 terror attacks by Al-Qaeda in the United States.
“It took place in the heart of the Turkish capital, across from the city’s central train station, a symbolic landmark of Ataturk’s Ankara, as well as killing so many people,” he told AFP.