- Two explosions tore through the pro-Kurdish peace rally, killing 97 people
- At least 400 people wounded in the blast near Ankara’s main train station
- Third deadliest terror attack in Europe, after Lockerbie and Madrid bombs
- But peace protesters back out on the streets tonight in defiance of terror
- WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
Turkish police have attacked peace protesters who had taken to the streets in a defiant gesture against the terrorists who set off two explosions at a pro-Kurdish rally earlier today, leaving 97 dead.
Thousands flooded the streets of the Istanbul, taking a brave stand against terrorists who targetted an earlier pro-Kurdish peace rally held in the Turkish capital Ankara.
The blasts tore through the crowd this afternoon, leaving up to 400 injured and at least 97 dead.
But police and protesters ended up clashing in the streets of Istanbul, with officers firing tear gas at marchers.
Thousands of protesters take part in a march against the deadly attack earlier in Ankara in Istanbul
They took to the streets after 97 were killed in the bomb blast during a pro-Kurdish rally in the Turkish capital
But some protesters ended up running away from tear gas during clashes with police in Istanbul
At least 97 are said to have died in the bombing, which is thought to have been an act of terrorism
Terrifying: Peaceful demonstrators at the pro-Kurdish rally react as the powerful blast goes off behind them
Horrific: Witnesses described how the blast shook the ground at the road junction near the main train station in the centre of the Turkish capital Ankara
Horrific video footage has emerged of demonstrators holding hands and dancing, but their joy turned to terror as the blast erupted just metres behind them at 10.05am.
The explosion tore through the crowd of people, maiming dozens of innocent bystanders and leaving body parts and debris littering the road.
Pictures which emerged shortly afterwards showed torn fragments of flags and banners people had been waving just moments before littering the ground.
Witnesses described how the blasts, which are believed to have been a terror attack, shook the ground around the city’s main train station.
Health Minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu initially confirmed that 62 people had been killed outright in the blast and a further 24 people had died in hospital.
But the figure is still rising, with the Turkish Medical Association claiming it has now reached almost 100 people and over 400 wounded.
The current death toll, which is expected to increase, makes it the third deadliest attack on Europe, after the Lockerbie bombings in 1988 and the Madrid train bombs of 2004.
Three days of mourning have been announced as the country grieves in the wake of the tragedy.
Emergency services have found themselves struggling to cope with the sheer number of wounded people in the aftermath of the blast.
The flags and banners which were being used to promote Kurdish rights in the demonstration were turned into makeshift stretchers by protesters tending to the injured.
Full of joy: Dancing and holding hands, the demonstrators are seen just moments before the horrific blast
No escape: Activists at the scene have reportedly unearthed ball bearings and other pieces of shrapnel that may have been packed into the explosive
Although the attack has not been claimed by any terror group, the Turkish government suspects that the twin blasts were a terrorist attack.
‘We suspect that there is a terrorist connection,’ a government official told AFP, asking not to be named.
Activists on the ground have unearthed ball bearings and other pieces of deadly shrapnel in the debris, that may have been packed inside the device.
In the minutes before the blast, demonstrators had begun their march in protest against the conflict between the Turkish state and Kurdish militants in southeast Turkey.
‘We heard one huge blast and then one smaller explosion and then there was a great movement and panic. Then we saw corpses around the station,’ said witness Ahmet Onen, in floods of tears.
‘A demonstration that was to promote peace has turned into a massacre, I don’t understand this.’
Desperate situation: Several people try to help an badly injured man shortly after the deadly blast
‘This attack resembles and is a continuation of the Diyarbakir and Suruc (attacks),’ said Selahattin Demirtas, leader of the Turkey’s pro-Kurdish party. ‘We are faced with a huge massacre.’
Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan called for ‘solidarity and determination’ in response to the attack.
‘Like other terror attacks, the one at the Ankara train station targets our unity, togetherness, brotherhood and future,’ he said.
The president has cancelled his plans in Istanbul and three Turkish political parties have suspended election campaigning events today.
In response to the attack, Kurdish rebels have announced a ceasefire against the government until after the elections.
Tensions remain high in the Turkish capital this evening, with reports emerging that Turkish police officers used tear gas and fired into the air to disperse terrified demonstrators just moments after the blast.
Painful: Shoes and broken glass rest among the twisted metal following the suspected terror attack
Struggling: Shocked demonstrators comfort each other after the devastating blast which left 400 injured
Unimaginable violence: The main function near the train station is a scene of chaos and destruction
Activists were heard chanting the slogan ‘police murderers!’ at security forces.
An anti-government peace rally had been organised by several leftist groups in the area later in the day, including the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).
‘We are faced with a huge massacre. A barbaric attack has been committed,’ said the HDP’s leader Selahattin Demirtas.
The attack comes on the tail of a months-long wave of unrest that is sweeping the country, ahead of polls on November 1.
Leaders across Europe and the United States have spoken out in condemnation of the savage attack.
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond described it as ‘barbaric’ in messages on social media, pledging the UK’s support.
THE DEADLIEST TERROR ATTACKS TO HAVE SHAKEN EUROPE
Lockerbie – 270 killed. A bomb planted on a Pan Am plane exploded over Lockerbie, in Scotland, on December 21, 1988.
Madrid – 191 killed. A string of rush-hour bomb attacks on four trains in Madrid and its suburbs killed 191 people and wounded almost 2,000, on March 11, 2004.
Norway – 77 killed. Right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik planted a bomb near the government’s office in Oslo on July 22, 2011, and later opened fire on a youth camp on the island of Utoeya, killing 77 people in total, mainly teenagers.
London – 56 killed. Four suicide attacks during rush hour on three trains and a London bus killed 56 people and wounded some 700 on July 7, 2005. The attack was claimed by an al-Qaeda affiliated group.
Northern Ireland – 29 killed. Amid ongoing violence in Northern Ireland, a car bomb in Omagh, in the province of Ulster, killed 29 people and wounded 220 on August 15, 1998. The attack was claimed by a splinter group of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) that opposed the fledgling peace process.
France – 12 killed. Two gunmen, linked to al-Qaeda, burst into the Paris offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and opened fire, killing 12, on January 7, 2015.
France – eight killed. A bomb on an RER commuter train exploded at the Saint Michel station in Paris on January 25, 1999, killing eight people. It was the worst of nine attacks generally attributed to Algerian extremists that wounded more than 200 that summer.
France – seven killed. Mohamed Merah, 23, shot three soldiers dead in Toulouse, and Montauban, southern France, on March 11, 2012, before killing three students and a teacher at a Jewish school in Toulouse on March 19.
Finland – seven killed. A bomb attack at a shopping mall in Vantaa, near Helsinki, killed six people, plus the bomber, a 19-year-old student. More than 80 people were wounded in the attack on October 11, 2002.
Bulgaria – seven killed. Five Israeli tourists were killed at the airport at the Black Sea resort of Burgas by a bomb hidden on their bus, on July 18, 2012. The bus driver and the bomber were also killed.
Tragic day: The blast took place close Ankara’s main train station just as the demonstration was starting
Barbaric: The bloodstained flags of the demonstrators is all that remains from the earlier rally
‘Appalled by barbaric attacks in Ankara. My thoughts are with the loved ones of those killed and injured. UK stands with the Turkish people,’ he wrote.
The director of Britain’s counter-terrorism police unit said British police are providing ‘ongoing support’ to investigators in Turkey.
Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, who heads the police counter-terrorism department, said British police are working closely with the Turkish authorities.
He urged anyone in Britain’s ‘affected’ communities who may have information about the attack to contact the police anti-terrorist hotline.
‘We are deeply saddened to hear’ of the explosions, he said, offering condolences to Turkey and to the substantial Turkish community in Britain.
Ned Price, the U.S. National Security Council spokesman, said: ‘The United States condemns in the strongest terms today’s horrific terrorist attack in Ankara, Turkey.’
He added: ‘The fact that this attack occurred ahead of a planned rally for peace underscores the depravity of those behind it and serves as another reminder of the need to confront shared security challenges in the region.
‘We offer our deepest condolences to the families and other loved ones of the victims, just as our thoughts remain with those injured in this senseless violence.
‘Like other terror attacks, the one at the Ankara train station targets our unity, togetherness, brotherhood and future,’ said President Tayyip Erdogan, calling for ‘solidarity and determination’
‘The United States will continue to stand side-by-side with the Turkish Government and people as together we take on the scourge of terrorism. Far from deterring these effort, such horrific acts of violence will only strengthen our resolve.’
German Chancellor Angela Merkel sent her condolences to Prime Minister Davutoglu, calling the attacks ‘particularly cowardly acts that were aimed directly at civil rights, democracy and peace’.
‘It is an attempt at intimidation and an attempt to spread fear,’ she said. ‘I am convinced that the Turkish government and all of Turkish society stands together at this time with a response of unity and democracy to this terror.’
About 1,000 people, primarily Kurds, held an impromptu rally in Paris to show support for the victims of the bombing.
Sombrely holding aloft photographs from today’s targeted peace rally, the group marched at the expansive Republique plaza in central Paris.
Paris has a large and active Kurdish community.
French President Francois Hollande, meanwhile, offered his condolences to the Turkish people and condemned ‘the attack that cost the lives of dozens of protesters in Ankara’.
Rally: Thousands of protesters take part in a demonstration against the deadly Turkish attacks, in Istanbul today
Aftermath: The attack comes with Turkey on edge ahead of November 1 polls and a wave of unrest over the past few months
Shock: In response to the attack, Kurdish rebels have announced a ceasefire against the government until after the elections