Turkey Vows to 'Cleanse' Syrian Border With of Extremists After Deadly Wedding Blast

Death toll from Sunday's suicide bombing at Kurdish wedding party in Gaziantep climbs to 53, with 70 others wounded.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, speaks during a joint press conference with his Afghan counterpart, Salahuddin Rabbani, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, June 16, 2016.
Rahmat Gul/AP

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Monday that his country is determined to fight Islamic State group extremists both inside Turkey and in Syria, after a youth blew himself up at a Kurdish wedding party, killing at least 53 people, many of them children.

Cavusoglu said Turkey would provide every kind of support that may be necessary to "cleanse" Turkey's border with Syria of the extremists.

The death toll from Sunday's attack increased to 53 overnight, after two more victims died in hospital. Nearly 70 others were wounded.

An official said at least 22 victims of attack in the southeastern city of Gaziantep, near the border with Syria, were children under the age of 14.

The official couldn't be named in line with Turkish government rules.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but officials have said it appears to be the work of the Islamic State group, accusing it of trying to destabilize the country by exploiting ethnic and religious tensions. It was the deadliest attack in Turkey this year.

Authorities were trying to identify the attacker, who President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said was aged between 12 and 14.

Responding to a question on reports that Turkish-backed Syrian opposition forces may launch an operation to free an IS-held town from Turkish territory, Cavusoglu said: "Our border has to be cleansed of Daesh and whatever support is necessary, we will provide it." He was using an Arabic name for the IS group.

"(IS) martyred our ... citizens. It is natural for us to struggle against such an organization both inside and outside of Turkey," he said.

Cavusoglu said Turkey had become a main target for the IS group because of measures it has implemented to stop recruits from crossing into Syria to join the fighting, as well as hundreds of arrests of IS suspects in Turkey.

The deadly attack also came amid ongoing struggles between the government and Kurdish militants linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, known as the PKK, and as the country is still reeling from the aftermath of last month's failed coup attempt, which the government has blamed on U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen and his followers.

The suicide bombing follows a June attack on Istanbul's main airport where IS suspects killed 44 people. A dual suicide bombing blamed on IS at a peace rally in Turkey's capital, Ankara, in October killed 103 people.

The pro-Kurdish political party HDP condemned the attack on the wedding, which it said was attended by many of its party members.