11 October 2015, WSJ: Ankara Suicide Attack Plunges Turkey Deeper Into Turmoil, Hardens Political Divide

5 October 2015, WSJ: Turkey Says Russian Fighter Jet Violated Its Airspace With Syria

Turkish Capital Ankara Hit by Explosions, Killing at Least 95

More than 240 wounded after deadliest terror attacks in Turkey's modern history

By Emre Peker in Istanbul and Ayla Albayrak in Ankara

Oct. 10, 2015

At least 95 people were killed in twin blasts in the Turkish capital on Saturday, as the deadliest terror attack in the country's modern history laid bare the precarious security environment just three weeks before snap elections. [1]

The explosions, which occurred outside Ankara's train station [2] at 10 a.m. as left-wing unions and Kurdish politicians gathered some 14,000 people for an antiwar march, also wounded 246 people, leaving 48 of them in a critical condition, the prime minister's office said in a statement late Saturday.

"Our nation, our people and our democracy have been targeted by a big terror attack. This assault is not on just one group, on our citizens participating in the rally or a particular political organization. This attack is on the unity of our country," Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said after an emergency meeting, vowing to bring those responsible to justice.

President Barack Obama called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to offer his condolences Saturday, conveying his sympathies for those killed and affirming U.S. solidarity in the fight against terrorism, the White House said.

No group has claimed responsibility for the explosions.

There is "strong evidence" that two suicide bombers triggered the blasts, the prime minister said. He didn't blame any organization for the blasts, but said several groups including Islamic State, the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, and leftist militants who have previously carried out bombings in Turkey have the capabilities to execute such attacks.

The deadliest terrorist assault on Turkey--surpassing the 57 deaths caused by multipronged al Qaeda bombings in Istanbul in 2003--comes as the interim government in Ankara faces mounting security challenges [3] in the lead-up to elections on Nov. 1. President Erdogan called snap polls after Turkey's first hung parliament since 2002 [4] failed to form a ruling coalition following June elections, which ended the governing majority of his Justice and Development Party, or AKP, led by his erstwhile ally Mr. Davutoglu.

Since the ballots, Turkey has been beset by political power struggles and a surge in violence between Kurdish separatists and state security forces that has all but killed a three-year-old push to achieve lasting peace in the country's restive southeast. [5] In July, Islamic State-linked militants killed more than 30 civilians in a suicide bombing in Suruc [6]--the deadliest strike by the Syrian border since a 2013 attack that killed 54 people in Hatay. The attack prompted Turkey to join the U.S.-led military campaign [7] against the extremist organization, commencing airstrikes against the militants in Syria and opening its air bases to coalition forces--a move that increased Ankara's vulnerability to assaults by the jihadist group.

Just last week, Russia violated Turkey's airspace [8] twice from Syria, as a buildup in Moscow's military operations in support of Damascus targets Syrian rebels backed by Washington and Ankara, and its airstrikes close to the Turkish border threaten the safety of a key North Atlantic Treaty Organization member.

The demonstration, attended mostly by organizations blaming Messrs. Erdogan and Davutoglu for stoking violence for political gains, was organized to call for an end to the unrest. The president and prime minister deny the charges, instead accusing Kurdish politicians of partnering with terrorists to bolster their power.

Among the groups participating in the demonstration was the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party, or HDP. Since the flare-up of violence after June's elections, when the HDP doubled its support to 13% to enter parliament for the first time, party leader Selahattin Demirtas has called on both the PKK and the state to resume peace talks.

"The purpose of this march was to call for peace and call for the end of the current conflict," an HDP spokesman said Saturday.

The attack drew world-wide outrage, with Russian President Vladimir Putin sending a message expressing his condolences to Mr. Erdogan, while Turkey's Western allies vehemently condemned it.

"In light of the ongoing violence in Turkey and the region, it is particularly important at this time that all Turkish citizens recommit to peace and stand together against terror," U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said, condemning the "heinous terrorist attack" and reaffirming Washington's commitment to jointly fight terrorism with Ankara.

Shortly after the explosions, the PKK declared a unilateral cease-fire that had been expected for Sunday. Without referencing the Ankara attack, the Kurdish insurgents said they took the step to safeguard a "fair and equal" election and wouldn't carry out operations unless state security forces threatened their militants. The government hasn't acknowledged or responded to the one-sided halt to hostilities, with Mr. Davutoglu saying Turkey would continue its fight against all terrorist organizations.

The government imposed a temporary ban on media reports about the terrorist attack, and social-media users experienced difficulties accessing platforms including Twitter as the government sought to control the dissemination of information about the strike. Turkish officials also slammed the assault as an effort to sabotage November's polls and stoke an environment of instability.

"People from all walks of life need to display a strong stance against this strike, which comes just as we head to elections and very important developments unfold around Turkey," said Omer Celik, a spokesman for the governing AKP. "In 20 days, Turkey's political dynamics and government will take shape--those who undertook this barbaric attack are trying to provoke this process."

The PKK also condemned the attack.

A witness in Ankara said in a telephone interview that she heard two loud blasts while heading to the demonstration with two friends, followed by a chaotic rush of people away from the train station.

"We wanted to make a call for peace. Kurds, Turks, Alevis were all gathering for the march," she said, refraining from giving her name for fear of government reprisal.

Vedat Altinoklu, a driver with a local tourism company who was at the scene about an hour after the blast, saw bodies covered with the flags of HDP and other political parties and organizations participating in the march. "I can't get the images out of my head. People crying, the chaos," he said.

Hundreds of security officials and civilians have been killed amid clashes between the PKK and state forces, while the government has claimed to have killed more than 1,000 Kurdish militants. The PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union, has been fighting for Kurdish autonomy since 1984 in a conflict in which more than 40,000 people have been killed.

Later Saturday, thousands of people across Turkey took to the streets in sporadic marches against terrorism, denouncing the bombings in Ankara and pledging to keep a united front in the face of attacks.

Ankara is sporadically hit by terror attacks. The capital was hit by PKK-linked suicide and car bombings in 2007 and 2011 that killed a total of 13 people. Leftist militants struck the entrance of the U.S. Embassy in 2013, killing two people including the suicide bomber.

"I condemn whoever did this. We came here to express our wish for peace. But we faced another massacre," said Lami Ozgen, chairman of Confederation of Public Employees' Unions, or KESK--one of the leading organizers of the march.

Turkey's president added his voice to the criticism.

"I strongly condemn this horrendous attack, which targets our unity and brotherhood. The aim of this attack is to make enemies of different groups in the society," Mr. Erdogan said.

But he added that the "greatest supporters of terrorism are those who apply double standards in face of terrorism," taking a swipe at the HDP without naming the pro-Kurdish party, which the president has repeatedly accused of being in cahoots with the PKK.

Kurdish politicians lashed out at the government for failing to prevent the attack, with HDP leader Selahattin Demirtas expressing doubt that the perpetrators would be brought to justice. He also compared the strike to the deadly bombing targeting an HDP rally in the majority Kurdish province of Diyarbakir before June elections and the assault in Suruc, saying the government would cover up the latest incident. The government responded that it caught the assailants in both attacks, and denied allegations of security lapses in Ankara on Saturday amid the political finger-pointing.

"Turkey doesn't deserve this," said Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP. "Everyone in this country should condemn terrorism."

Write to Emre Peker at and Ayla Albayrak at