Turkey Denies Turning Blind Eye to Islamic State As Bombing Stokes Anger
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu rejected accusations Turkey had in the past tacitly supported Islamic State militants operating from Syria and had unwittingly opened the door to a suicide bombing that killed at least 32 people.
The blast on Monday tore through a group of university-aged students from an activist group as they gathered in the border town of Suruc ahead of a planned trip to help rebuild the nearby Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani.
Kobani has come under repeated assault from Islamic State and been a rallying point for Turkey’s Kurdish minority, who have been enraged by what they see as the refusal of President Tayyip Erdogan and the ruling AK Party to intervene in a conflict played out within clear sight of Turkish military positions.
Thousands of foreign fighters have crossed through Turkey to join Islamic State over the past few years, fuelling accusations from the government’s opponents that it is turning a blind eye.
The United States and other Western allies have also urged Turkey, a NATO member which shares a 900 km (560-mile) border with Syria, to do more to tighten security on the frontier.
“Turkey and AK Party governments have never had any direct or indirect links with any terrorist group and have never showed tolerance to any terrorist group,” Davutoglu told reporters in Sanliurfa province, where Suruc is located.
Authorities have carried out a string of raids in recent weeks to arrest Islamic State suspects. They have also blocked more than half a dozen Islamist news websites, prompting one group claiming allegiance to Islamic State to accuse Turkey of persecuting Muslims and declare: “Muslims might retaliate.”
The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group, which has waged a three-decade insurgency against the Turkish state, said the AKP bore responsibility for the bombing, accusing it of backing Islamic State against Syria’s Kurds.
In Istanbul, police fired tear gas and water cannon late on Monday at protesters chanting “Murderer Islamic State, collaborator Erdogan and AKP.” At a similar protest in the southern port city of Mersin an attacker opened fire, wounding two people, local media said.