An NPR member station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Turkish Government Blames ISIS For Weekend Attack That Killed 97


After the worst terror attack in Turkey's modern history - a bombing that killed scores of protesters - that country is gripped by grief and calls for revenge. Turkey is preparing for parliamentary elections in two weeks, but shock and anger have consumed the country. The government blames the Islamic State for the bombings, but not everybody agrees, as NPR's Peter Kenyon reports.

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: The ruling AK Party, along with others, announced it will suspend its political rallies out of respect for the 97 victims of the deadly suicide bombing. But that gesture didn't appear to be buying much goodwill for the government at funerals for some of the victims.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting in foreign language).

KENYON: Since the attack, chants of Murderer Erdogan, referring to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, have been heard at rallies and funerals across Turkey. At one funeral in Istanbul, 26-year-old Arzu Ceylan accused the government of a massive intelligence failure.

ARZU CEYLAN: (Through interpreter) Whoever actually carried out this crime, I think the government bears responsibility for not protecting its citizens, whether it was the intelligence services, the PKK or left-wing radicals.

KENYON: Standing nearby, 40-year-old Ece Tokgoz says it doesn't make sense that the Kurdish militants from the PKK, or Kurdistan Workers' Party, were behind the attack. It could, she says, possibly have been ISIS.

ECE TOKGOZ: (Through interpreter) The PKK just declared a cease-fire from now until the elections. And I don't think they would hit a mainly Kurdish peace rally anyway. There are cells of ISIS in our country, we're told, they could have been used by cynical forces in Turkey.

KENYON: Officials are suggesting ISIS was to blame. The government says it's closing in on identifying at least one of the bombers, and a number of people with suspected ties to ISIS have been arrested across the country. None of those detained has been linked to Saturday's bombing. If it was ISIS, this would be the farthest into Turkey's heartland the Islamist group has reached. Previous attacks have been down near the Syrian border, including two bombings before the last elections in June. Details of the investigation are being closely held, but Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus says the bombers each detonated about 11 pounds of TNT packed with metal balls. That tracks closely with an earlier bombing near the border that killed 33 people. The government accused ISIS in that attack as well, but to date, no solid evidence has emerged to back that up.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting in foreign language).

KENYON: At one funeral Monday, mourners chanted their desire for peace. But the chance competed with calls for revenge. Fifty-year-old Ali San says revenge will only make things worse.

ALI SAN: (Through interpreter) We'll be stronger than ever for our demands for peace. We will honor the memory of our dead family and friends and insist on peace. There is no other way. Turkey cannot survive these horrors for long.

KENYON: That sense of anxiety for the country's future is running strong, as our fears for more violence between now and November 1 elections. Many Turks are wondering if any party can bring calm and a semblance of unity to this country. Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Istanbul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Peter Kenyon is NPR's international correspondent based in Istanbul, Turkey.