Turkey Backs Down from Claiming Wedding Bomber Was a Child

GAZIANTEP, TURKEY - AUGUST 21: People perform prayer for their relatives after the terrorist attack which is held during a marriage ceremony at Sahinbey district of Gaziantep, at Yesilkent Cemetery in Gaziantep, Turkey on August 21, 2016. At least 50 people died after the explosion. (Photo by Ensar Ozdemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty …
Ensar Ozdemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The Turkish government has been stepping back from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s claim that the suicide bomber who killed 54 people at a Kurdish wedding on Saturday, many of them children, was a child aged 12 to 14 himself.

As Voice of America News reports, Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said there was only “speculation” and “rumors from witnesses” about the identity of the bomber.

“We do not have a clue about who the perpetrators behind the attack were. Early information on who did the attack, in what organization’s name, is, unfortunately, not right,” said Yildirim, without dwelling on the fact that his boss was the most prominent source of the incorrect information.

“Those who were behind the attack will be revealed, there is no doubt about this,” Yildirim promised.

Hurriyet Daily News reports on a statement from the governor’s office in Gaziantep, where the attack occurred, which said eight of the people killed in the blast still have not been positively identified, including the attacker.  The number of people wounded in the attack was increased to 94.

Further information on the 54 dead revealed that 19 were women and 35 were men, while 31 of them were children under the age of 18. 39 of the wounded have been released from hospitals.

While the identification of the suicide bomber as a child has now been brought into question, Hurriyet quotes UNICEF spokeswomen Juliette Touma warning that “child recruitment across the region is increasing,” with child soldiers “receiving training on the use of heavy weapons, manning checkpoints on the front lines, being used as snipers and in extreme cases being used as suicide bombers.”

PressTV reports that a funeral procession for the Gaziantep victims “turned into an anti-government demonstration, with participants slamming the Turkish government for a failure to protect the security of citizens.”

According to this report, the mourners chanted, “Murderer Erdogan,” perhaps reflecting ongoing clashes between the Turkish government and the Kurdish separatists of the PKK. Mainstream Kurdish groups have also complained the Turkish government treats them unfairly.

Journalist Gila Benmayor wrote what sounds like a requiem for the “dreams” of Gaziantep on Tuesday at Hurriyet Daily News, drawing upon her personal experience to portray the town as both historically significant and “the most developed city in the region,” with a particular reputation for diverse and excellent food. Among the many prominent explorers and academics drawn to its archaeological treasures was T.E. Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia.

“With its export potential, tourism expectations and attributes like gastronomy that opened the city’s doors to the world, Gaziantep had big dreams for its future. Just like Diyarbakır, Mardin, Aleppo…” Benmayor writes, evoking a shadow of terror falling across the city that will not soon be lifted.


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