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Turkish PM Blames Islamic State for Ankara Bombings as Funerals Continue

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu also said today that investigators are close to identifying one of the suspects that killed at least 97 people in the country's capital Ankara on Saturday.
Photo by Deniz Toprak

Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said today that the Islamic State (IS) is the focus of the probe into a twin suicide bombing that killed at least 97 people in the country's capital Ankara on Saturday and that investigators are close to identifying one of the suspects.

Speaking in a live TV interview, Davutoglu said the attack was an attempt to influence the outcome of a parliamentary election on November 1 and that necessary steps would be taken if security failures were found to have contributed to the bombing.

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"It was definitely a suicide bombing. DNA tests are being conducted. It was determined how the suicide bombers got there. We're close to a name, which points to one group," he said of the worst attack in Turkey of its kind.

The two explosions happened seconds apart on Saturday as hundreds gathered for a march organized by pro-Kurdish activists and civic groups to protest over a conflict between Turkish security forces and Kurdish militants in the southeast.

Related: Anger and Sorrow in Turkey as Mourners Pay Respects to Bomb Victims

Anger is continuing over the incident in Turkey, and hundreds of people chanted anti-government slogans as they marched towards a mosque in an Istanbul suburb today for the funeral of several victims of the bombings.

The funerals were due to be attended by Selahattin Demirtas, leader of the pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) which says it was the target of the bombings and has blamed President Tayyip Erdogan and the government. The HDP, which said it was the target of the attack, has put the death toll at 128 and said it had identified all but eight of those bodies.

Riot police with water cannon and armored vehicles stood by as the crowd, some chanting "Thief, Murderer Erdogan" and waving HDP flags, moved towards the mosque in the working class Umraniye neighborhood of Istanbul.

Mourners place flowers and shoes on the ground today after the twin bombing in Ankara. Photo by Sedat Suna

A top Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) commander said the group's militants would stick to a ceasefire pledge announced at the weekend in memory of the people killed in the Ankara bombing, a news website close to the PKK said on Monday.

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Firat news agency reported Murat Karayilan as saying in a radio broadcast to the PKK's militants that they were not to stage attacks in Turkey unless they came under attack from the security forces.

Turkish warplanes struck PKK militant targets in northern Iraq and southeastern Turkey on Saturday and Sunday, pressing their military campaign a day after the rebel group ordered its fighters to halt attacks on Turkish soil.

Related: Anger Grows at Turkish Government After Worst Terror Attack in Country's History

Security sources said some 30-35 PKK guerrillas were killed in northern Iraqi raids on Sunday. "The PKK ceasefire means nothing for us. The operations will continue without a break," one senior security official told Reuters.

PKK shelters and gun positions were destroyed in the Metina and Zap areas of northern Iraq in Sunday's air raids, a military statement said. It also said 14 PKK militants were killed in strikes in the Lice district of Diyarbakir province in southeast Turkey on Saturday.

Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan had already dismissed the anticipated PKK ceasefire declaration as a "tactic" ahead of the election, reiterating government demands that the militants lay down arms and leave Turkey.

The PKK's 31-year-old conflict with the state erupted anew in July, with Turkey launching air strikes on militant camps in response to attacks on its security forces, ending a March 2013 ceasefire. Hundreds have been killed in the latest fighting.

The PKK has announced a series of ceasefires in the past, including ahead of elections, often with a view to opening negotiations. Turkey's army does not declare ceasefires.

Designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States, and European Union, the PKK launched a separatist insurgency in 1984 in which more than 40,000 people have been killed. The state launched peace talks with its jailed leader in 2012.