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Blasts kill scores at peace rally in Turkey in sign of worsening instability

Two bomb blasts ripped through crowds at a rally of peace activists in the Turkish capital Saturday, killing scores, in a reminder of the growing conflicts Turkey faces both at home and across the border in war-torn Syria.

The explosions in Ankara, which occurred just minutes and yards apart, killed 86 people and injured 186 more as they gathered to call for an end to the violence that has flared between Turkish security forces and Kurdish separatists in recent months.

The renewal of the decades-old conflict between Turkey and the Kurds has left more than 150 police and soldiers and hundreds of militants dead since this summer. Ethnic Kurds have also accused Turkish authorities of failing to protect them from what they say is violent spillover from Syria’s civil war.

In July, a suicide bombing targeting another rally of Kurdish peace activists in the town of Suruc killed 33 people and was blamed on the Islamic State. Turkey then joined the U.S.-led coalition carrying out strikes on the jihadists inside Syria, and was braced for potential blowback from the extremists. Turkey hosts more than 2 million refugees from Syria, which the government says is a major source of political instability.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Saturday there were “strong indications” the attack was carried out by suicide bombers, although there was no immediate claim of responsibility. He said the target was Turkish unity, democracy and stability.

“Early indicators would point to ISIS as the culprit,” said Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish research program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. ISIS is a common acronym for the Islamic State.

Either way, “this could well be Turkey’s 9/11,” Cagaptay said. “This is simply the worst terror attack in Turkish history.”

The United States also condemned the twin bombings as a terrorist attack. “It is particularly important at this time that all Turkish citizens recommit to peace and stand together against terror,” the State Department said in a statement.

The demonstrators, mobilized by a coalition of Turkish trade unions, had gathered outside Ankara’s main station hours earlier to chant, wave banners and flags and call for peace. The crowd included a mix of Kurdish and leftist Turkish activists, local media reports said.

A video circulated on social media showed demonstrators linking arms to perform a traditional dance before a fiery explosion erupted in the background, sending the crowd into a panic. It was unclear whether that explosion was from the first or the second bomb detonated outside the station.

Images from the scene showed dazed and bloody demonstrators clinging to one another in the aftermath of the blasts. Bodies, some of them dismembered, lay on the street, covered with flags protesters had brought to the march.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/at-least-30-dead-in-turkey-after-blasts-at-peace-rally/2015/10/10/1032baa7-53ec-4ed1-95f4-b8c11bbff7ab_story.html

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