Smart money is on the increasingly Islamofascist Turkish government being behind it. After all, Turkey has been one of the Islamic State’s strongest supporters against Assad, allowing ISIS jihadists to pass freely in and out of Syria via Turkey and has facilitated arms shipments to ISIS fighters from Libya.
FT.com Turkey suffered its worst terrorist attack on Saturday, with an official tally of 97 killed — a figure that a leading opposition party puts at 128. Twin bomb blasts in the capital of Ankara came at a time when tensions were already running high, as the Syrian war rages to the country’s south, a rekindled battle with Kurdish militants claims lives on an almost daily basis and the nation enters the last stretch of a fraught general election campaign.
Turkey’s political stability is deteriorating as violence spreads from the border region and the Kurdish south east to the heart of Ankara. A country that was not long ago focused on a bid to join the EU is instead becoming infected by the turmoil in the Middle East.
There are no satisfactory answers, as yet, and there may never be. The government on Monday pointed to ISIS as the most likely culprit, and said authorities were close to identifying one of the bombers. It had previously mentioned the banned Kurdistan Workers party, or PKK, as another possibility.
But some opposition figures, including the pro-Kurdish Peoples Democratic Party, or HDP, blame the government for at the very least failing to do enough to prevent the attack and, allegedly, taking a passive stance towards Isis. The jihadi group appears to be more focused on attacking Kurdish leftists — in Turkey as well as in Iraq and Syria — than engaging in a fight with the Turkish state.
Those killed at Saturday’s peace rally include many HDP activists and several of the party’s candidates for November’s elections. The government rejects all such criticism.
Turkey’s recent past is disfigured by violence, notably a dirty war between the PKK and the state, which reached a peak in the 1990s. After more than a decade of relative calm, the war in Syria appears to have accelerated the killing.
There has been a surge in violence amid Turkey’s current political stalemate. Two days before June 7 elections, two bomb blasts at an HDP rally in Diyarbakir, the heartland of Kurdish Turkey, killed four people. Another bomb aimed at Kurds in the border town of Suruc in July killed 33, an attack for which the government blamed ISIS, although the jihadi group has never claimed responsibility.
According to some Turkish media reports, one of the perpetrators of Suruc and the alleged suicide bomber behind the Ankara blasts were brothers, both Turkish nationals who had fought for ISIS in Syria.
The government has again been accused of taking an authoritarian stance in the wake of Saturday’s Ankara bombings, using tear gas on survivors, imposing a (widely disregarded) ban on reporting the attack and, according to many Turkish users, blocking or slowing down Twitter, which many opposition activists rely on to exchange information.