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Bomb attack on wedding leaves scores dead in Turkey

Ilyas Akengin, AFP | A man cries as he carries a coffin during a funeral for victims of last night's attack on a wedding party that left 50 dead in Gaziantep in southeastern Turkey near the Syrian border on August 21, 2016.

At least 54 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 close to the Syria border.

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President Tayyip Erdogan said it was likely that the so-called Islamic State (IS) group had carried out the late-night attack, the deadliest bombing this year in Turkey, which faces threats from militants at home and across the border with neighbouring Syria.

Erdogan later said at a press conference that the suicide bomber was between 12 and 14 years old.

But speaking to reporters in Ankara on Monday Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said it was too early to verify the organisation responsible or whether the attack was carried out by a child.

At least 22 victims under age of 14

Turkey's Dogan news agency reported the suicide bomber had mixed in with the guests before detonating the charge. Security forces are now searching for two individuals who entered the celebration with the suspected bomber and then fled, it added.

The local governor’s office said that many of the the wounded were still being treated in hospitals around the province.

The Hurriyet Daily News said the bride and groom -- Besna and Nurettin Akdogan from the mainly Kurdish region of Siirt -- were in hospital but that their lives were not in danger.

Gulser Ates, who was wounded in the attack, told Hurriyet the attack took place as the party was breaking up.

"We were sitting on chairs, having a chat with one of our neighbours.

"During the explosion, my neighbour died on top of me. I remember being underneath. If my neighbour hadn't fallen on top of me, I would have died," she said.

Blood stains and burns marked the walls of the narrow lane where the wedding party was attacked, while women cried waiting outside the morgue for word on missing relatives.

"We want to end these massacres," witness Ibrahim Ozdemir said. "We are in pain, especially the women and children."

At least 12 people were buried on Sunday, but other funerals will 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, and women and children had been among those killed.

Mahmut Togrul, an HDP lawmaker from Gaziantep, around 40 km (25 miles) north of the border with Syria, told Reuters it was a Kurdish wedding. The Islamic State group has been blamed for suicide bombings on Kurdish gatherings in the past as militants try to stir ethnic tensions.

Turkey is still tense after an attempted coup on July 15 which Ankara blames on US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen. He has denied the charge.

>> Read more on FRANCE24.com: “Turkey detains thousands after coup attempt thwarted”

Three suspected Islamic State group suicide bombers killed 44 people at Istanbul’s main airport in June. In October last year, suicide bombers killed at least 95 people when they attacked a rally of pro-Kurdish and labour activists outside Ankara’s main train station.

Violence flared up again this week in the largely Kurdish southeast, with bomb attacks leaving 10 people dead in separate attacks, mostly police and soldiers, in an escalation that officials blamed on the PKK, Kurdish separatists militants.

The Turkish president said at a press conference on Sunday that the aim of such attacks was to sow division between different groups in Turkey such as Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen and to "spread incitement along ethnic and religious lines".

"Our country and our nation have again only one message to those who attack us -- you will not succeed!" the president added.

>> Watch FRANCE 24’s exclusive interview with President Tayyip Erdogan in the wake of the recent failed coup attempt

HOW DID ERDOGAN ESCAPE MILITARY COUP?

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

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