Suicide bomber at Kurdish wedding was as young as 12, Turkish president says
Bomb went off at outdoor party in southern city of Gaziantep, close to Syrian border
A day after a suicide bomber attacked an outdoor Kurdish wedding party in southeastern Turkey, killing at least 51 people and wounding dozens, the Turkish president says the assailant was with the group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and as young as 12.
The bombing late Saturday in Gaziantep, near Turkey's border with Syria, was the deadliest attack in Turkey this year.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking live on national television in front of Istanbul's city hall, said the attacker was between 12 and 14 years old.
He said 69 people were wounded, with 17 of them in critical condition.
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"It was clear that Daesh had such an organization in Gaziantep or was attempting to make room for itself in recent times," Erdogan said, using an alternative acronym for ISIS. "Many intensive operations were conducted, are being conducted. Of course our security forces will be conducting these operations with even greater intensity."
A bus driver who shuttled some of the guests from Siirt to Gaziantep said that he couldn't believe the party was targeted.
'This attack was deplorable'
"This was a wedding party. Just a regular wedding party," Hamdullah Ceyhan told Anadolu. "This attack was deplorable. How did they do such a thing?"
Turkey has been rocked by a wave of attacks in the past year that have either been claimed by Kurdish militants linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party — known by its acronym PKK — or were blamed on ISIS. In June, suspected ISIS militants attacked Istanbul's main airport with guns and bombs, killing 44 people. A dual suicide bombing blamed on ISIS at a peace rally in Turkey's capital, Ankara, in October killed 103 victims.
The attack comes as the country is still reeling from last month's failed coup attempt, which the government has blamed on U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen and his followers. Gulen denies any involvement.
Earlier this week, a string of bombings blamed on the PKK that targeted police and soldiers killed at least a dozen people. A fragile, 2½-year-long peace process between the PKK and the government collapsed last year, leading to a resumption of the three-decade-long conflict.
In Gaziantep, Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek and the country's health minister visited the wounded and inspected the site of the attack.
"This is a massacre of unprecedented cruelty and barbarism," he told reporters. "We... are united against all terror organizations. They will not yield."
Opposition parties have also denounced the attack. The main opposition Republican People's Party will be holding an emergency meeting in the late afternoon and a delegation was being sent to Gaziantep by the Nationalist Movement Party. Supporters of the pro-Kurdish People's Democracy Party will be holding a protest against the attack in Istanbul.
Foreign governments, including the U.S., Sweden, Greece, France, Bahrain, Qatar and Jordan, have condemned the attack.
ISIS has army of child soldiers
ISIS has a history of using children as weapons, sending them to their death strapped with explosives and putting them on front lines in Iraq and Syria.
The group maintains an army of child soldiers, which it calls "cubs of the caliphate," and seeks to re-educate children at ISIS-run schools, indoctrinating them with their own radical version of Islam and exposing them to violent acts including beheadings as part of a concerted effort to build a new generation of militants. ISIS videos have shown boys killing ISIS opponents through beheadings and shootings.
Other militant organizations have exploited children as well. They include the West African extremist group Boko Haram, which is affiliated with ISIS and has used child suicide bombers, mostly girls, on dozens of occasions, according to Human Rights Watch.