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Ankara Bombing Suspects Had Links to Islamic State and Kurds, Turkish Government Claims

Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that both the Islamic State and Kurdish rebels "are likely to have played an active role” in Saturday's suicide bombings.
Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

Turkish authorities have reportedly identified the men behind two suicide bombings that killed 97 people in Ankara on Saturday, using DNA evidence collected at the scene. Their names are Omer Deniz Dundar and Yunus Emre Alagoz. The latter is said the be the missing brother of the man behind a bombing in Suruc near the Syrian border in July that killed 33 mostly young pro-Kurdish activists who had assembled to help rebuild the border town of Kobane, responsibility of which was claimed by the Islamic State.


The news comes after Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that some of the suspects in suicide bombings that killed 97 people in Ankara on Saturday spent months in Syria and could be linked to Kurdish rebels and IS, which he referred to by using the terror insurgency's Arabic acronym, Daesh.

Davutoglu told Reuters on Wednesday that Turkey has intelligence showing that militants from the Kurdistan Workers Party (known as the PKK) and the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front, a Marxist-Leninist group that claimed responsibility for an attack on the US Consulate in Istanbul in August, had trained as suicide bombers in northern Iraq and were then sent to Turkey.

"We are working on (investigating) two terrorist organizations, Daesh and PKK, because we have certain evidence regarding the suicide bombers having links with Daesh, but also some linkages with PKK groups," the prime ministersaid.

Turkish police have reportedly detained two individuals for allegedly posting on Twitter ahead of the Ankara bombings saying that there would be an attack.

"As the investigation deepens, and based especially on certain results we have obtained through Twitter accounts and IP addresses, we can see that both Daesh and the PKK are groups that are likely to have played an active role," Davutoglu said.

"We don't see any difference between Daesh and PKK," he added. "They are both criminals, both terrorist organizations attacking Turkey, attacking civilians."


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

The twin suicide bombings in Ankara hit a rally of pro-Kurdish activists and civic groups who were promoting peace with Kurdish rebels, which at first glance would seem an odd target for an assault by Kurdish militants. Some in Turkey are mocking the implication that the PKK might even have been working with IS, given that the PKK has been aggressively fighting IS in both Iraq and Syria.

The Ankara bombings sparked anger from citizens who are condemning the Turkish government for failing to prevent the worst terror attack on Turkish soil. Others have accused the government of being complicit.

Davutoglu has suggested that the bombings were meant to undermine the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) ahead of an election on November 1 and bolster support for the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), whose historic win in elections in June denied the AKP the votes it required to form a majority government. Government critics have countered that President Tayyip Erdogan has appeared intent on discrediting the HDP by amplifying Kurdish hostilities.

Erdogan has acknowledged that there were intelligence and security failures in the run-up to the bombing. Turkey's Interior Ministry announced late on Tuesday that Ankara's police, intelligence, and security chiefs have been removed from their posts for the sake of an investigation.


"In order to run a healthy investigation into the abominable terrorist attack… and in line with the requests from chief civil and police inspectors, Ankara's provincial police chief, intelligence department chief, and security department chiefs have been removed from duty," a statement on the ministry's website said late on Tuesday. The statement did not say if the officials would return to their posts after the investigation.

The possibility that a group known to the authorities carried out Saturday's attack has heaped pressure on the government, which is already under fire from opponents for failing to provide information about its investigations into bombings in Diyarbakir and Suruc earlier this year. Four people were killed in the bombing of a HDP rally in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir on the eve of the elections in June.

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In his interview with Reuters, Davutoglu said that Turkey had the right to defend itself against growing risks emanating from Syria after Russia's military intervention, which he said reflected the weakness of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government. Syria's army, along with Iranian and Hezbollah allies, are reportedly on the verge of launching a ground attack supported by Russian air strikes against insurgents in the Aleppo area, which is close to the Turkish border.

"As a neighboring country we have serious concerns and we have certain rights … based on international law to protect our homeland security," Davutoglu said. "Now there are more risks in Syria than before after these new interventions. But at the end of the day the Syrian people should decide on their own future."

Asked whether Turkey would supply moderate Syrian rebels with weapons to face the Russian-led assault, he said thatthe issue was one for the international community to tackle, and not for Turkey to handle on its own.

"This is not our problem only, this is the problem of the international community," he remarked. "It is a shame for the international community not to stop the war crimes of the Syrian regime and not to stop this barbaric Daesh group."