An explosion took the lives of at least 31 people and injured 76 more on Monday in the Suruç district of Turkey's southeastern province of Şanlıurfa, which is located some 10 kilometers north of Syrian town of Kobani. The terrorist attack that took place at the garden of Amara Culture Center of Suruç Municipality has been caused by a suicide bomber according to Şanlıurfa governor.
Twenty-three were killed at the scene of the explosion, while seven people died in hospitals due to their wounds. Suruç District Governor Abdullah Çiftçi confirmed the death toll at 30 while stating that 20 people still remain in critical condition.
Later on Monday, death toll rose to 31, and on Tuesday morning pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) co-chairman Selahattin Demirtaş announced that the death toll reached 32.
Three members of the cabinet, namely Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş, Interior Minister Sebahattin Öztürk and Labor Minister Faruk Çelik are heading to Suruç to coordinate investigation efforts.
The Ministry of Interior released a written statement roughly an hour after the attack and confirmed the death toll, while promising to find the perpetrators as soon as possible.
The explosion targeted dozens of people from a pro-Kurdish group, Socialist Youth Associations Federation (SGDF), who gathered at the culture center before their journey to Kobani, according to various sources.
The youth participating in the SGDF campaign were going to help restructure Kobani. The group had previously released a press statement on Sunday before starting their journey in Istanbul. The group was later joined by another group from Ankara.
The group aimed to continue their activities in Kobani until July 26, which included building a playground, planting a memorial forest and giving health services to local people.
At least 300 were accommodating in the culture center when the blast took place. Media outlets released various photos of the victims following the deadly attack, among whom university students constituted the majority, but one photo especially drew Turkey's attention, which showed two young women losing their lives while holding each others' hands.
There has been no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, but the crowd was hit by a cluster bomb, initial reports have claimed. Suruç District Governor Abdullah Çiftçi and other eyewitnesses have said that the explosion seems like it was the work of a suicide bomber, while Şanlıurfa Governor İzzettin Küçük later on in the day confirmed the attack as a suicide bombing.
The force of the explosion in Suruç smashed the windows of the building in the center of the city and set off a fire, witnesses said.
"A terrorist attack took place in the town of Suruç in Şanlıurfa today (Monday) around 12:00 p.m. local time (0900 GMT)," the interior ministry said in a statement.
"We are calling on everyone to show common sense in the face of this terrorist attack targeting our country's unity," the interior ministry said.
An official in the prime minister's office said 28 people were killed and nearly 100 injured.
Various sources stated that the death toll may rise and a total of 33 ambulances (air and land) have been dispatched to the region.
Meanwhile, many government officials condemned the incident, urging people to unite in such difficult times. Additionally, a 'crisis desk' has been established by the prime ministry.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan condemned Monday's deadly attack in Suruç as an "act of terror."
"We are drowning in grief that 28 citizens died and a large number of people were injured as a result of an act of terror," Erdoğan said during a visit to Turkish Cyprus. "On behalf of my people, I curse and condemn the perpetrators of this brutality," he added.
The Interior Ministry also released a statement shortly after the attack. "We are calling on everyone to show common sense in the face of this terrorist attack targeting our country's unity," the statement read. Meanwhile, many government officials condemned the incident, urging people to unite. The Prime Ministry has also established a crisis desk.
Deputy Prime Minister Yalçın Akdoğan condemned the "despicable" incident on Twitter, saying such terrorist attacks on Turkey's integrity and peace would never reach their goal.
Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, chairman of Republican People's Party, or CHP, also condemned the "insidious" attack, saying the party sent an investigation team to the area. The CHP also called on its local members to donate blood to the people wounded in the blast.
Turkey's pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP) said, their central executive committee will meet on Tuesday to discuss the aftermath of the incident.
Terror attack comes after Turkey's intensified anti-ISIS fight
Speaking to Daily Sabah, Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA) foreign policy coordinator, Ufuk Ulutaş, said that the prime suspect in the attack is ISIS, which simultaneously conducted another bomb attack in Kobani, which is just on the Syrian side of the border from Suruç. The strongest motive behind the attack is Turkey's intensified efforts in fighting ISIS with the U.S.-led coalition.
Earlier this month retired Gen. John Allen, who was appointed by U.S. President Barack Obama to build the coalition, held talks in Ankara with Turkish officials. Turkish authorities have also detained and arrested dozens of suspected ISIS members.
Ankara has banned over 13,000 foreign citizens from entering the country and deported nearly 2,000 potential foreign fighters who were either caught entering Syria or stopped at the border in accordance with intelligence provided by ally countries.
Army positions tanks, artillery batteries toward Syria
After the deadly terrorist attack in the Suruç district of Şanlıurfa province, bordering Syria, the Turkish Armed Forces positioned tanks and artillery batteries in Kilis province toward the Syrian side.
Armored vehicles were also deployed near the border after authorities banned border crossing between the two countries after Monday's blast.
The government has recently decided to take solid steps to secure its 900-kilometer border with Syria. Fearing another refugee influx and Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) at its door, Ankara is alarmed by continuous ISIS attacks on Western-backed moderate Syrian opposition groups and possible attacks on its territory.
Suruç, once a center of silk-making, is now home to one of the biggest refugee camps in Turkey, housing Syrians who have fled the bloody four-year conflict in Syria.
The camp, which opened in January, shelters about 35,000 refugees who crossed the border after ISIS militants seized Kobani last year.
Several hundred thousand Syrians have taken refuge in Turkish camps along the border but the vast majority of them are scattered in major cities.
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