ANKARA: At least 50 people were killed and dozens more wounded late Saturday night in an attack possibly carried out by a suicide bomber on a wedding party in the Turkish city of Gaziantep near the Syrian border.
The local governor's office said in a statement 50 people were killed in the bombing and more wounded were still being treated in hospitals around the province. Gaziantep governor Ali Yerlikaya said 94 had been wounded in the attack, and vowed that those responsible would be "brought to account".
President Tayyip Erdogan said it was likely that members of the militant Islamic State (IS) group had carried out the late-night attack, the deadliest bombing this year in Turkey, which faces threats from militants at home and across the border with neighbouring Syria.
Mehmet Erdogan, a ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lawmaker for Gaziantep said it was not clear who was responsible for the explosion but there was a “high possibility” it was a suicide attack that could have been launched by IS or the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
The explosion is the latest attack to have rocked the key Nato member in a horrific year that has seen a string of strikes blamed on Kurdish and IS, as well as a bloody July 15 botched coup.
'IS the culprit'
The explosion took place in the Sahinbey district of the city which is said to have a large number of Kurdish residents, fuelling speculation of IS involvement.
Reports said the wedding had a strong Kurdish presence.
“Initial information suggests it is Daesh (an Arabic acronym which is used for the group) who did this,” Gaziantep MP for the AKP, Samil Tayyar, was reported as saying by Dogan news agency.
He added: “It is an area where many of our Kurdish brothers live.”
The pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) said its members had been present at the wedding which was also attended by many women and children.
“The aim of terror is to scare the people but we will not allow this,” said Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek, who also represents Gaziantep in the Turkish parliament, adding that a suicide bombing was the likely cause.
A major city lying just 60 kilometres (37 miles) north of the Syrian border, Gaziantep has become a hub for Syrians fleeing the civil war in their country.
Images from the scene showed bodies covered in white sheets while distraught relatives of the victims were comforted in the street.
Turkey has already been hit by a bloody year of militant attacks in its two biggest cities that have left dozens dead.
Kurdish militants have twice struck in Ankara in deadly attacks, while IS suicide bombers have twice killed tourists in the centre of Istanbul.
Twelve people were killed on Thursday in a spate of bombings against Turkish security forces blamed on the PKK who appear to have ramped up their campaign of attacks in the aftermath of the failed coup.
As has been the case in previous attacks, Turkey's broadcasting regulator RTUK banned broadcast of footage from the scene of the attack in Gaziantep.
Information and Communication Agency (BTK) head Omer Fatih Sayan told state-run Anadolu news agency that those sharing images of the bombing would face prosecution.
'More active Turkey'
The blast in Gaziantep came on the day Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim vowed Ankara would play a “more active” role in the next six months in efforts to solve the over five-year Syrian civil war.
In a sign that Turkey's position was becoming gradually more aligned with Russia and Iran, he added that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could remain temporarily during a transition period. Iran and Russia are the main allies of Assad whereas Turkey has always insisted his exit was a precondition for the end of the conflict.