Scuffles have broken out in the Turkish capital as police used tear gas to prevent pro-Kurdish politicians and other mourners from laying carnations at the site of two suspected suicide bombings that killed 95 people and wounded hundreds in the country’s deadliest attack in years.
Police held back the mourners, including the pro-Kurdish party HPD’s co-leaders Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, insisting that investigators were still working at the site.
Turkey declared three days of mourning after Saturday’s nearly simultaneous explosions that targeted a peace rally in Ankara calling for increased democracy and an end to the renewed fighting between the Turkish security forces and Kurdish rebels. The rally was attended by activists, unions and members of the HPD, and came just weeks beforeTurkey holds a new election on November 1.
A group of about 70 mourners was eventually allowed to enter the cordoned-off area outside Ankara’s main train station yesterday to briefly pay their respects to the victims.
The mourners then marched toward a central square, chanting slogans against president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whom many hold responsible for the violence that has plagued Turkey since the summer.
Addressing hundreds of mourners, Mr Demirtas accused the government of failing to prevent the attack.
“The state which gets information about the bird that flies, and every flap of its wing, was not able to prevent a massacre in the heart of Ankara,” he said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, but prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Kurdish rebels and Islamic State militants were the most likely culprits.
The government announced yesterday that it had appointed two civil and two police chief inspectors to investigate the attack. Yeni Safak, a newspaper close to the government, said investigators had determined that one of the bombers was a male aged about 25 or 30.
The attacks came at a tense time for Turkey, whose security forces have seen renewed fighting with autonomy-seeking Kurdish rebels since July. Hundreds have died in the past few months as a 2012 peace process with the Kurds was shattered.
The fighting was rekindled following a similar suicide bombing in July that killed 33 peace activists near the border with Syria, which authorities said was the work of the Islamic State group.
Critics have accused Mr Erdogan of inflaming tensions and re-igniting the fighting with the Kurds in the hope that the turmoil would rally voters back to the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP. Electoral gains by the pro-Kurdish party caused the ruling party, founded by Mr Erdogan, to lose its parliamentary majority in a June election after a decade of single-party rule.
Mr Erdogan, who strongly denies the accusation, condemned the attacks, which he said targeted the country’s unity and called for solidarity.
Hours after Saturday’s bombings, the Kurdish rebels announced a temporary cease-fire to allow the November elections to proceed in a secure environment. Turkey’s government has, however, rejected the declaration, saying the rebels must lay down arms for good and leave Turkey.
Turkey is also on edge over developments across in Syria, with which it shares a 900km border.
Ankara has agreed to take a more active role in the US-led battle against Islamic State.