Prosecutors in Turkey have confirmed what many have long suspected: that the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) was behind Turkey’s worst terrorist attack. The ISIS leadership in Syria is believed to have ordered a Turkish cell from Gaziantep to carry out the twin suicide bombings in Ankara on 10 October.
In a written statement on Wednesday 28 October, the Ankara Public Prosecutor’s Office said evidence indicated the Ankara bombers staged the attack to create huge unrest in the run-up to the Nov. 1 General Election.
A week earlier, prosecutors had named one of the suicide bombers as Yunus Emre Alagöz, the brother of Şeyh Abdurrahman Alagöz who had carried out another suicide bombing in Suruç on 20th July that killed 33 people and wounded more than 100.
The investigation has yet to confirm the identity of the second Ankara bomber, thought to be Ömer Deniz Dündar. Their names have long been on lists of suspected Turkish ISIS militants.
The Ankara bombing bore a remarkable similarity to the Suruç attack: both involved suicide bombers who detonated their vests in the midst of a public gathering, and the materials used in the bombs are identical, indicating a single group behind them.
Dozens of suspects have been arrested in the current investigation, which has led police office to uncover five depots used by Turkish ISIS cells. Among the items found were hundreds of explosives, a dozen suicide vests and 2.5 tons of ammonium nitrate used to make bombs.
Turkey’s worst terrorist attack
Three weeks ago, two suicide bombers detonated their bomb-laden vests killing 102 people and injuring hundreds of others who had gathered for a huge peace rally in Ankara. It was Turkey’s deadliest ever terrorist attack.
The ‘Labour, Peace and Democracy’ rally had been organised by trade unions, professional groups and left wing activists, along with two of Turkey’s leading opposition parties, the centre left CHP and the Kurdish-focussed HDP. It was scheduled to take place in Sıhhiye Square, in the heart of the Turkish capital.
Ankara Central Station, near to the square and just a few hundred metres from the headquarters of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organisation (MİT), was the designated meeting point. People had started to gather there from early morning. Some attendees sang songs, while others danced the halay or waved flags as they waited for more people to arrive and the rally to start.
At 10.04 the first bomb went off just outside the station, followed by a second blast nearby less than a minute later, causing carnage. As bystanders tried to help, police were accused of preventing ambulances reaching the wounded and using tear gas against those at the rally. The police claim they were simply trying to clear the area to ensure no further casualties from any further bombs that went off.
Turkey’s ‘terror cocktail’
No one has claimed responsibility for the bombings. However suspicion quickly fell on ISIS due to the similarities with the Suruç attack.
Yet immediately after the bombing, AKP Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu used the phrase “terror cocktail” in a television interview, suggesting that the perpetrators were drawn from a wide spectrum of terror groups seeking to destabilise Turkey and prevent AKP from regaining power.
Davutoğlu hinted that ISIS was in collusion with the Kurdish terrorist group PKK and the armed Marxist Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C). He added that the hand of Syrian leader President Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian Kurdish rebel force PYD could also be felt in the recent terror attacks on Turkish soil.
The claims were dismissed as ludicrous by many commentators and opposition politicians, who pointed to the fact many of the factions the AKP leader mentioned were currently at war with each other.
Figen Yüksekdağ, co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), said “terror cocktail” is ‘a political concept that pushes the limits of logic and insults people’s intelligence’.
The irrationality of Davutoğlu’s speculations about the perpetrators was side-stepped by pro-AKP media and commentators, who jumped on his theory and quickly promoted it more widely. Yeni Safak columnist Abdulkadir Selvi wrote: “Why do some think it is unnecessary to try to find PYD-PKK involvement alongside of [ISIS] in the Ankara bombing? Aren’t PYD-PKK involved in such affairs? They have deals with Assad, work with Iran. They are in accord with Russia. Now they are getting guns from the US.”
Huge lapse in Turkish security intelligence
Many believe the AKP government is seeking to tar its enemies with the same terror brush to avoid focus on its own failings. In a country where there is a huge police presence for all public gatherings, particularly those anti the government, the lack of security at the Ankara peace rally was highly noticeable.
Questions have also been asked how the two bombers could travel across the country, have breakfast in a nearby café and then detonate two deadly bombs under the nose of MİT, without the Turkish security forces knowing anything about their plans.
Many families whose sons or daughters have been radicalised have freely offered information to the Turkish authorities in the past. A major cell was known to exist in Adıyaman over two years ago, whose members are said to be behind a host of bombings in Turkey this year. The families claim little has been done to either prevent the radical Islamist groups from operating or to locate their children.