Turkey bars Twitter over bombing protest fears

Istanbul has seen several protests since bomb attack. Picture: AP

Istanbul has seen several protests since bomb attack. Picture: AP

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TURKEY briefly blocked ­access to Twitter yesterday to prevent images of Monday’s deadly bombing on the Syria border from being broadcast and to stop Twitter users from calling for protests against the government.

Users of social media were blaming the Turkish authorities for not doing enough to prevent the attack, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

Access was restored a few hours later. A government official said Turkey had asked Twitter to remove 107 URLs with images of the aftermath of the bombing Monday in south-east Turkey, which killed 32 people and wounded scores.

Twitter had removed about 50 of the URLs before it was blocked.

The Turkish government official said access to Twitter was restored after the company “removed malicious content, including hate speech, in line with the court order”. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of rules that bar officials from speaking to journalists without authorisation.

A court in Suruc earlier yesterday had issued a ban on the publication of images related to the bombing in the media, including the internet and social media platforms, and ruled that access be barred to internet sites that do not comply with the ban, Anadolu reported.

Turkish officials had raised concerns that the bombing in the border town is part of a retaliation campaign by the Islamic State group for the government’s crackdown on its operations in Turkey.

Officials said they have detained more than 500 people suspected of working with IS in the past six months – including an operation this month that captured 21 suspects in an investigation of IS recruitment networks in Turkey.

Protests have erupted in Istanbul and other cities since the bombing on Monday, with demonstrators blaming the government for the attack.

Yesterday, police detained a group of people before they could march to a local ruling party office in Istanbul. Protesters also threw fireworks as police officers attempted to disperse the crowd at a separate protest in Istanbul.

Turkey has periodically blocked social media. The government ordered a temporary block on Twitter and YouTube earlier this year during a hostage crisis in an Istanbul courthouse.

Those sites were also blocked last year after audio recordings of a secret Turkish security meeting suggesting corruption by government officials were leaked on social media.

Turkey’s highest court, however, overturned those bans, deeming them unconstitutional.

Previous moves by Turkish authorities to block the social media networks have provoked widespread criticism by Western governments and human rights organisations.

Authorities confirmed, meanwhile, that Monday’s attack was a suicide bombing and identified the bomber as Seyh Abdurrahman Alagoz, a Turkish national. Anadolu said Alagoz’s older brother ran a now closed-down tea house where IS was believed to have recruited followers.

The two brothers had been reported missing for the past two months, the agency said.

A cabinet meeting yesterday was due to examine additional security measures along the border with Syria.

IS militants have not responded to claims that they were behind the bombing.

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