Senior Turkish cabinet ministers and police officials held an emergency meeting on Wednesday (May 23rd) to discuss new measures against terrorism, less than 24 hours after a powerful bomb blast in Ankara left six people dead and more than 100 wounded.
The explosion — the worst attack to hit the capital in more than a decade — occurred near a bus stop outside one of the oldest shopping malls at about 6:45pm, when the streets in the busy commercial district were crowded with people.
The blast shattered the windows of the mall and of nearby buildings and left furniture and debris scattered on the street. Police cordoned off the area to allow medics to tend to the wounded, at least seven of whom are in serious condition.
“This is the most horrific scene I have ever seen. It gives me great grief,” Ankara Mayor Melih Gokcek said.
Citing police sources, media reports said that A4 plastic explosives, typically used by the members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), were found at the scene, raising the prospect of the group’s involvement.
“We have seen a vicious, ruthless terror attack at Ankara’s busiest time,” Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters. He said experts were trying to establish if it was a parcel bomb or suicide attack, adding it was too early to say who was behind the attack.
The PKK has been fighting for self-rule in Turkey’s Kurdish-dominated southeast since 1984, leading a campaign of bombings, kidnappings and armed attacks that have left more than 30,000 people dead. The group is outlawed in Turkey, and is listed as a terrorist organisation by both the EU and the United States.
“We must work together against terror in all countries of the world,” Erdogan said on Tuesday. “We see the results of it in America, Britain, Spain, Italy and all places.”
According to Turkish media reports, the blast took place hours after the opening of a three-day international defence industry fair and minutes before the start of an official reception at the Museum of Anatolian Civilisations, several hundred metres away from the site of the explosion. Members of the delegations of 48 countries that are in Ankara for the fair and top Turkish military officials, including armed forces Chief of General Staff General Yasar Buyukanit, were expected to pass the area on their way to the reception.
A Pakistani military attachÃ© said eight members of his country’s delegation were among those injured in the blast.
At the scene of the explosion, Buyukanit said the attack was the work of “an organised terror group,” and warned that other big cities could be hit. “You have to look at the institutions behind this terror organisation,” the Anatolian News Agency quoted the general as saying. “You have to look at people who are feeding these terror organisations.”
According to Turkish media reports, at least seven people have already been taken into custody in connection with the blast.