At least 28 people killed as ISIS suicide bomber blows himself up at a cultural centre in southern Turkey
- Massive blast hit the city of Suruc, close to Turkey’s border with Syria
- Suruc is near to Kobane, where Syrian Kurdish forces are still battling ISIS
- Officials believe today’s explosion was caused by an ISIS suicide bomber
- Blast comes after Turkey made its first serious efforts to combat terrorists
At least 28 people have been killed in a suicide bombing at a cultural centre in the Turkish town of Suruc, close to the border with Syria.
The blast in the town – which lies opposite the Syrian flashpoint of Kobane – was described as a ‘terrorist attack’ by the interior ministry, who stopped short of declaring it the work of ISIS militants.
But Turkish officials speaking anonymously said an initial investigation suggests the terror group are behind the atrocity, which comes just days after Turkey made its first serious efforts to combat ISIS with a round of arrests of militants and their supporters in the country.
Several Turkish media reported fatalities and private television station NTV said scores had been killed and about 100 wounded.
Witnesses said fire broke out after the strong explosion which smashed the windows of the building.
Suicide bombing: The cause of the blast in the Suruc – which lies opposite the Syrian flashpoint of Kobane – was not immediately clear but officials believe it is likely to have been the work of ISIS militants
Victims: Bodies lie on the ground in the southern Turkish city of Suruc following this morning’s deadly attack
Injured: Scores of people have been killed in a suicide bombing in the Turkish town of Suruc this morning
Television footage showed several people lying on the ground covered in blood and ambulances rushing to the scene.
The blast came as Turkey was stepping up its role in the fight against ISIS.
Last week, security forces arrested dozens of militants and sympathisers in the most significant action by Ankara against the Sunni terror group, who have seized swathes of neighbouring Iraq and Syria since 2014.
A Turkish government official confirmed to AFP journalists that the explosion occurred in the garden of a culture centre in Suruc but declined to provide any casualty figures.
The blast took place as a group from Turkish left-wing youth associations were preparing to make a press statement Suruc to announce they would cross into Kobane.
The group was staying at the cultural centre.
Shortly after the attack in Suruc, a second bomb went off afterwards south of Kobane near a Kurdish militia checkpoint on the road to Syria’s largest city of Aleppo, according to Kurdish officials.
It caused minor damage and no casualties, he said.
People help the wounded after an explosion in the southern Turkish city of Suruc near the Syrian border today
Deadly: Scores have been killed and more than 100 injured, with bodies temporarily covered by newspapers
Suruc, once a centre of silk-making, is now home to one of the biggest refugee camps in Turkey housing Syrians who have fled the bloody four-year conflict at home.
The camp, which opened in January, shelters about 35,000 refugees who crossed the border after Islamic State jihadists seized Kobane last year.
In January, Kurdish forces backed by rebel groups and US-led air strikes had pushed IS out of Kobane after four months of fierce fighting in a hugely symbolic defeat for the jihadists.
The Islamists make a surprise raid on the town in June but the fighters were driven back by Kurdish forces who took full control of the town.
But IS launched a surprise attack on the Syrian town last month, staging three suicide bombings and re-entering the town. Many of the injured had been taken to hospitals in Suruc.
Several hundred thousand Syrians have taken refuge in Turkish camps along the border but the vast majority of them are scattered in major cities, where their presence has stoked tensions with locals.
Turkey has long been under international pressure to tighten the security of its volatile 566 mile border with Syria to cut the flow of jihadists who try to join the ranks of the Islamic State militants.
Ankara has always vehemently denied claims of Turkish collusion with ISIS and in turn accused the West of not doing enough to help with the burden of Syrian refugees, 1.8 million of whom are living in Turkey.
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