ISIS suicide bombers are the prime suspects after twin blasts killed 97 at a peace rally in the Turkish capital, Ankara, on Saturday, Turkey's prime minister said Monday.
The office of Ahmet Davutoglu confirmed that the death toll had risen to 97 and said, "Identification efforts continue on bodies of two male terrorists who were ascertained to be suicide bombers," the state-run Andalou Agency reported.
In a TV interview Monday, Davutoglu confirmed that ISIS was the focus of investigations and said the attack was an attempt to influence the outcome of the country's Nov. 1 elections, Reuters reported.
Emergency services were called to the scene following a twin blast at 10:05 a.m. local time Saturday, according to Anadolu.
The blast coincided with a rally organised by the Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (KESK) to press the Turkish government to end conflict with Kurdish militant group Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
Some 246 people were injured, the prime minister's office said.
A Reuters reporter in Ankara said there were several bodies covered by flags that had been carried by demonstrators, as well as body parts and bloodstains on the road.
One eyewitness described to the New York Times seeing the two explosions taking place seconds apart. "After the first explosion I just ran," they said. "When I went back to help there were bodies on the floor and blood splattered everywhere."
Ahmet Onen told AFP he saw "corpses around the station." In tears, he said, "A demonstration that was to promote peace has turned into a massacre, I don't understand this."
The pro-Kurdish HDP party was thought to be among those at the rally, according to the BBC.
The peace rally was planned in response to the snap election, as Turkey faces multiple security threats.
Sedat Kartal, who visited the scene of the blast, told the Times that people in Ankara expected an attack ahead of the election. "There's so much hate and polarisation, nothing is surprising anymore," he said.
A summer of violence between the Turkish state and the PKK has ensued since Turkey launched air strikes on militant camps in July. In September, Turkey also joined in US-led airstrikes on ISIS targets in Syria, and allowed the US-led coalition to use its airbases.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan strongly condemned "attacks that are aimed at our unity".
"The attacks have targeted our fraternity. Our solidarity would be the most meaningful response we could give," he said in a statement.
"Our state is working with all its might to uncover the mystery over the incidents."
The office of Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has said that emergency meetings between government officials and security chiefs were to be held in response to the attack.
A Turkish interior minister said that the attack, "targets Turkey's democracy and peace," Associated Press reported.
The leader of Turkey's pro-Kurdish party, Selahattin Demirtas, whose members attended the rally, said the "toll is severe.
"There are dozens of dead and hundreds of injuries. Some of our friends are in serious condition."
In a press conference on Saturday evening, Prime Minster Davutoglu said there was evidence two suicide bombers carried out the attacks, which he described as a direct attack on Turkish peace and democracy.
According to a translation of the press conference by Al Jazeera, the prime minister offered condolences to the families of the 86 people who lost their lives.
"This is the time to show solidarity of with people," he added, declaring three days of national mourning.
He called for a greater tolerance among those in Turkey who share different political opinions: "We should be protecting our unity, regardless of your political opinions, ethnic or religious background.
"Let us please come together and stand together against terror," he said.
The prime minister did not attribute the attacks to a particular group, but said that the relevant departments of state would come together to fight against the act of terrorism.
"Whoever has undertaken this attack, the secret circles behind them will be arrested, and will be sent to the judiciary," he said.
No groups have yet taken responsibility for the attack.
The twin blasts appear to be the deadliest terror attack in Turkey's recent history, according to the Global Terrorism Database.
In November 2003, 57 people were killed and 700 injured after an al-Qaeda suicide bomber's truck slammed into the British consulate and the HSBC bank headquarters in Istanbul.
In May 2013 the country suffered another serious attack when two car bombs exploded in Reyhanli leaving 43 dead and over 100 people injured.
In July this year, a suicide bomber detonated explosives at a rally in support of victims who died in an earlier terrorist attack. The rally attack killed at least 32 people.
Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjørn Jagland condemned what he called a "barbaric attack on peaceful demonstrators."
He said that "freedom of assembly is a fundamental pillar of democracy."
French President François Hollande also sent his condolences to the Turkish people.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said he had spoken with the Turkish prime minister to share his condolences.
U.S. National Security Council spokesman Ned Price also issued a statement:
The United States condemns in the strongest terms today's horrific terrorist attack in Ankara, Turkey. The fact that this attack occurred ahead of a planned rally for peace underscores the depravity of those behind it and serves as another reminder of the need to confront shared security challenges in the region. We offer our deepest condolences to the families and other loved ones of the victims, just as our thoughts remain with those injured in this senseless violence. The United States will continue to stand side-by-side with the Turkish Government and people as together we take on the scourge of terrorism. Far from deterring these efforts, such horrific acts of violence will only strengthen our resolve.
President Obama spoke with President Erdogan by phone on Saturday afternoon, the White House said.
"[Obama] conveyed his deepest personal sympathies for those killed and injured in these heinous attacks, and affirmed that the American people stand in solidarity with the people of Turkey in the fight against terrorism and shared security challenges in the region," the White House said.
Eyewitness reports suggested that police fired shots into the air to disperse demonstrators angered by the deaths of fellow activists, according to AFP.
It was understood that teargassing by police may have delayed medical attention to casualties.
Video footage showed riot police barricading demonstrators as tensions rose in the aftermath of the bombings.
Laura Silver is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Laura Silver at email@example.com.
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