Dozens killed as suicide bomber attacks wedding venue in Turkey

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Photo: A police officer putting a crime tape at the venue of the bombing

At least 50 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, the local governor’s office said.

President Tayyip Erdogan said it was likely that Islamic State militants 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 Syria.

Celebrations were coming to an end and some families had already left when the blast tore through partygoers, and women and children were among those who had died, witnesses said.

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Blood stains and burns marked the walls of the narrow lane where the wedding party was attacked. Women in white and checkered scarves cried, sitting crosslegged and waiting outside the morgue for word on missing relatives.

“The celebrations were coming to an end and there was a big explosion among people dancing,” said 25-year-old Veli Can. “There was blood and body parts everywhere.”

The local governor’s office said in a statement 50 people were killed in the bombing, and more wounded were still being treated in hospitals around the province.

A prosecutor’s office said they had found a destroyed suicide vest at the blast site.

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The bride and groom survived the attack, though the groom was wounded, a local official said. It had been a traditional henna night, a celebration held by the bride’s family before the wedding itself when henna paint is applied to the guests.

At least 12 people were buried on Sunday, but other funerals would 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, said it was a Kurdish wedding.

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Photo: A local resident looking at a garage door damaged by the attack

Islamic State has been blamed for suicide bombings on Kurdish gatherings in the past as militants try to stir ethnic tensions.

“It was carried out like an atrocity,” witness Ibrahim Ozdemir said. “We want to end these massacres. We are in pain, especially the women and children.”

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

It was the deadliest attack since October last year, when suicide bombers killed 100 people after they attacked a rally of pro-Kurdish and labor activists outside Ankara’s main train station.

Three suspected Islamic State suicide bombers killed 44 people at Istanbul’s main airport in June.

Violence flared again this week in the largely Kurdish southeast. Ten people were killed in bomb attacks, mostly police and soldiers, in an escalation that officials blamed on the PKK, Kurdish separatists militants.

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