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Thousands Pay Tribute To Ankara Bombing Victims


Now let's follow up on the confused and deadly politics of Turkey. That country is in the middle of a political campaign and in the middle of an insurgency. The government is fighting ethnic Kurdish separatists in the eastern part of the country. On Saturday, people marched in protest against the government's fight. Two explosions at that march in Ankara killed scores of people. Later, police stopped marchers who tried to place carnations at the scene.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting in foreign language).

INSKEEP: That left the frustrated protesters chanting, killer state will be held to account. All of this serves as a reminder for the United States. The U.S. wants Turkey as an ally against the nearby Islamic State. Turkey, however, is busy with its own domestic problems. Reporter Lucy Kafanov is tracking the protest, the bombing and the aftermath. What exactly were the people protesting when they were bombed?

LUCY KAFANOV: Turkey is experiencing an incredibly difficult time when it comes to security and conflict. The country is effectively waging a two-front war against Islamic State militants in Syria as well as against the Kurdish separatist insurgents known as the PKK in northern Iraq and in Turkey's southeast. On top of this, there's been a resurgence in attacks from far-left extremists. And on top of all of this, Turkey's in the midst of a massive political crisis. They're going to new snap elections. So with Turkey facing of these renewed threats, the point of the protest on Saturday was really to call for peace and to demand an end to the renewed fighting, especially in Turkey's Kurdish heartland.

INSKEEP: So what evidence is there as to who conducted this attack and what methods they used?

KAFANOV: Well, that's the million-dollar question. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu did suggest on Saturday that the attack could have been carried out by Islamic State extremists, Kurdish militants or even radical leftist groups. But we are hearing now some sources in the government indicating that officials are looking more closely at the possibility of some sort of a link to Islamic State jihadists. There's also conspiracy theories, I would say from talking to people, where a lot of folks feel that because there's all this electoral instability, perhaps the government either implicitly or explicitly allowed such attacks to happen with an electoral calculus in mind.

INSKEEP: Well, that's what I was wondering because we heard those chants, killer state will be held to account. That's effectively a conspiracy theory - isn't it? - an idea that the state is somehow behind this violence, like the bombing on Saturday.

KAFANOV: Turkey has a long and uneasy history with the so-called deep state, where in the past, there have been various acts of terror or unrest carried out with the implicit agreement of forces within the government. So that's in part why there's so much suspicion and mistrust at the moment. It really is, it seems, a descent into suspicion on all sides.

INSKEEP: Journalist Lucy Kafanov, who's in Ankara, Turkey. Thanks very much.

KAFANOV: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.