51 Dead in Suspected ISIS Bombing on Wedding in Southern Turkey

The attack hit when a large group of people from a Kurdish wedding party took to the streets in celebration in Gaziantep, on the Syrian border.

People stand near the explosion scene following a late night attack on a wedding party that left 50 dead in Gaziantep, southeastern Turkey, near the Syrian border, August 21, 2016.
Ilyas Akengin, AFP

At least 51 people were killed and dozens were wounded when a suspected suicide bomber detonated his explosives among people dancing on the street at a wedding party in the southern Turkish city of Gaziantep on Saturday, security and hospital sources said.

President Tayyip Erdogan said it was likely that Islamic State militants had carried out the late-night attack, one of the deadliest this year in Turkey, which faces threats from militants at home and across the border with neighboring Syria.

"The celebrations were coming to an end and there was a big explosion among people dancing," said 25-year-old Veli Can. "There was blood and body parts everywhere."

Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek said the "barbaric" attack in the city of Gaziantep, near the border with Syria, appeared to be a suicide bombing. On Sunday morning, President Tayyip Erdogan confirmed the death toll and condemned the attack, saying it was likely carried out by Islamic State militants.

The Prime Minister's Office issued a statement in which it expressed Israel's condolences to the families of those killed in Gaziantep and to the Turkish nation. Defeating terrorism requires a combined effort by the international community, acting with "force and determination," the statement read.

Relatives grieve at hospital August 20, 2016 in Gaziantep following a late night militant attack on a wedding party in southeastern Turkey.
Ahmed Deep / AFP

Photos taken after the explosion showed several bodies covered with white sheets as a crowd gathered nearby. The attack appeared to have hit when a large group of people from a wedding party took to the streets in celebration, security sources said. 

The pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party, or HDP, said in a statement that the wedding was for one of its members, and women and children had been among those killed.

Mahmut Togrul, an HDP lawmaker from Gaziantep, told Reuters it was a Kurdish wedding. Islamic State has been blamed for suicide bombings on Kurdish gatherings in the past as militants try to stir ethnic tensions.

People react after an explosion in Gaziantep, southeastern Turkey, early Sunday, Aug. 21, 2016.
Eyyup Burun / AP

"It was carried out like an atrocity," witness Ibrahim Ozdemir said. "We want to end these massacres. We are in pain, especially the women and children."

Turkey is still raw after an attempted coup on July 15 which Ankara blames on U.S.-based preacher Fethullah Gulen. He has denied the charge.

A man and a woman mourn next to a body of one the victims of a blast targeting a wedding ceremony in the southern Turkish city of Gaziantep, Turkey, August 20, 2016.
Reuters via Ihlas

Three suspected Islamic State suicide bombers killed 44 people at Istanbul's main airport in June, then the deadliest in a string of attacks in Turkey this year.

In October last year, suicide bombers killed at least 95 people when they attacked a rally of pro-Kurdish and labour activists outside Ankara's main train station.

Violence flared up again this week in the largely Kurdish southeast, with bomb attacks leaving 10 people dead in separate attacks, mostly police and soldiers, in an escalation that officials blamed on the PKK, Kurdish separatists militants.