Ankara bombings: Amid heightened tensions, suspicious package detonated

Amid heightened tensions in Ankara following Saturday’s deadly explosions, the bomb squad was deployed after a suspicious package was found close to the main train station in the Turkish capital.

Police carried out a controlled explosion on the package Tuesday. It turned out to contain food.

Three days after blasts killed at least 97 people at a peace rally near Ankara’s station, no suspects have been arrested and Turkey remains on edge.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has said two suicide bombers are believed to have carried out the attack and the focus of the investigation is the Islamic extremist group ISIS.

Not specifically identifying any group behind the act, Davutoglu told Turkish television station NTV Monday: “We investigate Daesh (ISIS) as our No. 1 priority. There (has) been good progress toward identifying a name. That name points to an organization.”

Turkish authorities trying to identify suspects have begun collecting DNA samples from relatives of those believed to have joined ISIS, according to the semiofficial Anadolu news agency.

The Turkish government recently changed its stance to allow the United States to launch strikes on the militant group’s positions from Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey.

Other suspected groups

Davutoglu also said the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, PKK, and the leftist DHKP-C could be behind the blasts.

The Saturday blasts targeted crowds at a lunchtime peace rally calling for an end to the renewed conflict between the PKK, and the Turkish government.

CNN’s Tim Lister writes that whoever chose Saturday’s rally in Ankara as a target wants to stoke polarization and violence in Turkey — and destroy an already fragile political dialogue.

Davutoglu told NTV the attack was obviously intended to have an impact on Turkey’s elections scheduled in three weeks.

Political rallies

His Justice and Development Party (AKP) later declared that it would not hold any of its scheduled election rallies until Friday October 15 and that subsequent rallies would be focused peace and anti-terror themes, Anadolu reported .

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) also said it would not hold any rallies until October 14, according to the English-language Hurriyet newspaper.

In an interview with CNN’s Fred Pleitgen Monday, the leader of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), Selahattin Demirtas, raised concerns about security at demonstrations.

The HDP has said two of its parliamentary candidates died in the blast,

“We are of the opinion that it’d be wiser not to hold large rallies in open spaces, we cannot continue our election campaigns as if nothing happened, it wouldn’t be right politically or ethically,” Demirtas said.

Bombings have struck rallies involving Kurdish groups in Turkey three times this year. A suicide attack in the town of Suruc, near the Syrian border, in July killed 34 people. An ISIS supporter was blamed for carrying out that attack, but the group never claimed responsibility.

Kurdish forces have been battling ISIS jihadists across a swath of northern Iraq and Syria.

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