GAZIANTEP, Turkey, Aug 21 (Reuters) — At least 50 people were killed on Saturday when a suspected suicide bomber detonated his explosives among people dancing on the street at a wedding party in the southern Turkish city of Gaziantep, the local governor’s office said.
President Tayyip Erdogan said it was likely that Isis militants carried out the late-night attack, the deadliest bombing this year in Turkey that faces threats from militants at home and across the border with Syria.
Celebrations were coming to an end and some families had already left when the blast tore through partygoers — women and children were among those who had died, witnesses said.
Blood stains and burns marked the walls of the narrow lane where the wedding party was attacked. Outside the morgue women in white and checkered scarves cried, sitting cross-legged waiting for any word on missing relatives.
“The celebrations were coming to an end and there was a big explosion among people dancing,” said 25-year-old Veli Can. “There was blood and body parts everywhere.”
The local governor’s office said in a statement 50 people were killed in the bombing, and more wounded were still being treated in hospitals around the province.
A prosecutor’s office said they had found a destroyed suicide vest at the blast site.
The bride and groom survived the attack, though the groom was wounded, a local official said. It had been a traditional henna night, a celebration held by the bride’s family before the wedding itself when henna paint is applied to the guests.
At least 12 people were buried on Sunday, but other funerals would have to wait because many of the victims were blown to pieces and DNA forensics tests would be needed to identify them, security sources said.
The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, or HDP, said in a statement that the wedding was for one of its members.
Mahmut Togrul, an HDP lawmaker from Gaziantep that is about 40km north of the border with Syria, told Reuters it was a Kurdish wedding. Isis has been blamed for suicide bombings on Kurdish gatherings in the past as militants try to stir ethnic tensions.
“It was carried out like an atrocity,” witness Ibrahim Ozdemir said. “We want to end these massacres. We are in pain, especially the women and children.”
Turkey is still tense after an attempted coup on July 15 that Ankara blames on US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen. He has denied the charge.
It was the deadliest attack since October last year, when suicide bombers killed 100 people after they attacked a rally of pro-Kurdish and labour activists outside Ankara’s main train station.
Three suspected Isis suicide bombers killed 44 people at Istanbul’s main airport in June.
Violence flared again this week in the largely Kurdish south east. Ten people were killed in bomb attacks, mostly police and soldiers, in an escalation that officials blamed on the PKK, Kurdish separatists militants.