GAZIANTEP, Turkey, Aug. 21 (UPI) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said a child between ages 12 and 14 detonated a bomb at a wedding late Saturday that killed 51 people and injured 69 others.
The blast occurred in the city of Gaziantep, about 60 miles north of the war-torn Syrian city of Aleppo. More than 200 people were packed into a street in the district of Sahinbey for the Kurdish wedding when the explosion occurred around 11 p.m.
He said the suicide bomber also was believed to have killed two policemen in the city.
Erdogan in a statement before his television appearance said there is “no difference” between the IS, which is based in neighboring Syria, the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party and Fetullah Terrorist Organization, founded by U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, state-run Anadolu Agency reported Sunday.
He has accused Gulen of being behind the recent coup.
“Those, who cannot overcome Turkey and try to provoke people by abusing ethnic and sectarian sensitiveness will not prevail,” he said.
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim vowed renewed fighting against terrorist groups. “No matter what this treacherous terror organization is called, we as the people, the state and the government will pursue our determined struggle against it,” he said.
The United States condemned the killing in the “strongest possible terms.”
“The perpetrators of this barbaric act cynically and cowardly targeted a wedding, killing dozens and leaving scores wounded,” National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said in a statement. “We stand with the people of Turkey as they defend their democracy in the face of all forms of terrorism.”
Vice President Joe Biden will visit Ankara on Wednesday “to reaffirm our commitment to work together with Turkey, our valued NATO Ally and partner, to confront the scourge of terrorism,” according to the statement.
Witnesses described the mayhem.
“We had just walked past the wedding and offered our good wishes when we heard the blast,” Ibrahim Ates, a local man, told The New York Times. “Suddenly people started running past us. When we went back to see what had happened, everyone was on the floor, and there were body parts scattered everywhere and blood splattered on the walls.”
Mahmut Togrul, a lawmaker with the Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, said the the bride and groom,
Besna and Nurettin Akdogan, survived the attack and are in stable condition,” Togrul said.
“Many of the victims that died were children,” he added.
Police found parts of a suicide vest in the area where the blast took place, the Gaziantep chief prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
“Everyone here is devastated. We can’t even carry out the funerals because the bodies are in pieces. They are struggling to identify the victims,” Hilmi Karaca, a Kurdish activist who witnessed the explosion, told The New York Times.
On July 15, at least 240 people were killed in a failed coup aimed at topping the government of Erdogan.
On June 28, IS militants are suspected of storming Istanbul’s main airport with guns and bombs, killing at least 44 people.