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Deadly explosion rocks Turkish capital Ankara

(London Post)     A loud explosion has hit the Turkish capital, with reports saying that the government district was the target. Pictures on social media and news channels showed smoke rising from the scene.

Initial reports suggested that the blast had been caused by an exploding vehicle. CNN Turk reported that a “large number of people” were injured in the incident while Ankara governor Mehmet Kiliclar confirmed that at least five people had been killed in the attack and another ten wounded. The majority of casualties were assumed to be military personnel.

A vehicle had reportedly exploded during rush hour traffic near a passing van carrying military personnel. The attack occured within the close vicinity of a military dormitory attached to the headquarters of the Turkish Armed Forces in central Ankara. The military reported that the attack took place a 6:31pm local time (16:31 UTC/GMT).

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s office said it was investigating the explosion. Meanwhile, the prime minister said he would cancel his upcoming trip to Brussels to join the European Union summit about the migration crisis.

‘Act of terrorism’

The explosion occurred roughly 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) away from the Turkish parliament in the central district of Cankaya, from were reporters said they could hear the blast clearly. The ruling AK Party’s spokesman Ömer Celik condemned the attack as an act of terrorism.

“The fact that this attack was carried out in one of the busiest areas exemplifies the mean and treacherous nature of terrorism once more,” he said. Turkey’s justice minister and a military spokesperson also referred to the explosion as a terrorist attack.

A statement from the military said the attack had occurred while the military convoy had been stationary at a traffic light.

“We strongly condemn this malicious and treacherous attack, wish God’s mercy upon the lives of our lost heroes and military colleagues, send our condolences to their families and to the glorious Turkish nation, and wisha speedy recovery to our wounded heroes and colleagues in the armed forces,” the statement read in Turkish.

Turkish police have thrown a security cordon around the area. Roughly 30 minutes after initial reports came in about the attack, Turkey’s broadcasting regulator RTUK banned any further reporting on the unfolding event outside of official statements.

Islamic State or PKK?

There was no immediate indication about who had carried out the attack, but the self-declared “Islamic State” (“IS”) group has been blamed for a string of bombings in the country since the middle of last year.

An explosion in Ankara during a peace protest on October 10 had killed more than 100 people when two suicide bombers blew themselves up. It was the bloodiest attack in the country’s modern history. Eleven people were also killed on January 16 when a suicide bomber blew himself up in the tourist heart of Istanbul.

Both attacks were blamed on IS jihadists, as were two other deadly bombings in the country’s Kurdish-dominated southeast earlier in the year.

However, after a fragile peace process with Kurdish rebels had collapsed in the summer Turkish security forces have also been engaging in large-scale operations against Kurdish militants in the southeast, displacing tens of thousands of civilians in due course. The military action has also led to a sharp rise in attacks on soldiers carried out by members of the forbidden Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

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