Ankara explosions leave more than 80 dead - officials

October 10, 2015, 2:27pm

The moment one of the blasts occurred: BBC News

By BBC News

Two explosions at a peace rally in the Turkish capital Ankara have killed at least 86 people and injured 186, according to officials. TV footage showed scenes of panic and people lying on the ground covered in blood, amid protest banners.

The blasts took place near the city's central train station as people gathered for a march organised by leftist groups. Turkey's president condemned the attacks as "terrorist acts".

Recep Tayyip Erdogan denounced what he called "this loathsome attack that targeted our unity and our togetherness". Government officials are investigating reports that a suicide bomber was behind at least one of the explosions.

The rally was demanding an end to the violence between the Kurdish separatist PKK militants and the Turkish government and had been due to start at 12:00 local time. The pro-Kurdish HDP party was among those attending, and it said in a statement that it believes its members were the main target of the bombings.

The leader of the HDP has blamed the state for the attack, which he called "a huge massacre", and cancelled all election rallies. Turkey is holding a re-run of June's inconclusive parliamentary elections on 1 November.

Later on Saturday, the PKK called on its fighters to halt its guerrilla activities in Turkey unless attacked first. A statement from an umbrella group that includes the PKK said its forces would "make no attempts to hinder or harm the exercise of a fair and equal election".

The two explosions happened shortly after 10:00 as crowds gathered ahead of the rally. Amateur video footage showed a group of young people holding hands and singing, before the first blast. Opposition MP Musa Cam tweeted a photo of a ball bearing he says he found at the scene. "I heard one big explosion first and tried to cover myself as the windows broke. Right away there was the second one," an eyewitness at the train station told Reuters.

"There was shouting and crying and I stayed under the newspapers for a while. I could smell burnt flesh," he added. "There was a great movement and panic," eyewitness Ahmet Onen told AFP.

"A demonstration that was to promote peace has turned into a massacre, I don't understand this," he said, sobbing.

Bulent Tekdemir, who was at the rally, told the BBC that the police used tear gas "as soon as the bomb went off", and "would not let ambulances through".

A local resident said that angry people tried to attack police cars after the blast. The HDP tweeted that police "attacked" people carrying the injured away.

An HDP rally in the city of Diyarbakir was bombed in June, ahead of general elections in which the party entered parliament for the first time.

In July, a suicide bombing by suspected Islamic State militants on a gathering of socialist youth activists in the town of Suruc on the Syrian border killed at least 30 people.

A ceasefire between the Kurdish militant group the PKK and Turkey's government later broke down, and there have been regular attacks from both sides since then.