Dozens have been killed and many injured as two huge explosions went off during a peace rally in the Turkish capital, Ankara.
The Turkish Health Minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu confirmed the death toll had reached 86 and at least 186 were injured in the incident, with 28 of them in intensive care.
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Authorities have called the incident a “terrorist attack”and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has announced that Turkey will hold three days of national mourning.
According to local media, the explosion took place near Ankara Central railway station, the busiest in Turkey, which serves 181 trains daily. Several ambulances have been reportedly seen at the scene.
According to Lami Ozgen, head of the Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions, or KESK, the bombs “exploded in very short intervals,” AP reported.
The explosions occurred at a rally dubbed “Labor, Peace, Democracy” that kicked off at 10:00 local time (0700 GMT). Turkey’s largest trade unions were planning to get together for a demonstration to protest the Turkish government’s renewed military campaign against Kurdish rebels.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is to hold meeting with security officials following the tragedy, his office said.
“We are investigating the explosion and will share our findings with the public as soon as possible,” a Turkish official told AFP.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has commented on the attack, calling for “solidarity and determination as the most meaningful response to terror.”
The hashtag #Ankaradayız (We are Ankara) has been used in 35,000 retweets in the hours since the attack.
Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, condemned the attack.
“The news from Ankara this morning is shocking and disturbing. This is a ruthless and barbaric attack on peaceful demonstrators. I express my condolences to all who have lost their friends and loved ones. Freedom of assembly and freedom of expression are fundamental pillars of democracy,” he said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent his condolences to Turkish President Tayyip Recep Erdogan over the Ankara tragedy, the Kremlin press service said in a statement.
In his telegram, Putin expressed the hope “that the perpetrators of this cynical crime would be brought to justice, and confirmed readiness for close cooperation with the Turkish authorities in the fight against the terrorist threat,” the statement added.
Shortly after the attack, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) announced it was planning to halt its activity in Turkey, a news website close to the PKK reported, as cited by Reuters.
Turkey’s pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) claimed that their members were especially targeted in the deadly explosions.
“Just after the beginning of the march, at about 10:04 a.m., two bomb attacks occurred among the HDP cortege. For this reason, it is understood that the main target of the attacks was the HDP,” the party said.”Many of the injured people are heavily injured, so there is a fear that the number of dead people may increase.”
No one has claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack, but it comes amid renewed fighting between Turkish security forces and Kurdish rebel forces.
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