Turkish officials are backtracking on claims that a child carried out the country’s deadliest suicide attack this year, killing dozens of unsuspecting guests at a Kurdish wedding Saturday.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan initially said a child between the age of 12 and 14 suicide-bombed the wedding in the southeastern city of Gaziantep, killing at least 54 and wounding almost 70. Erdogan also claimed that ISIS has used children to act as human bombs before.
But Prime Minister Binali Yildrim said authorities were still trying to identify the bomber Monday and didn’t yet know whether the attacker was “a child or a grown-up.”
“A clue has not yet been found concerning the perpetrator,” Yildrim told reporters, adding the initial assertion was a “guess” based on witness accounts.
Bomb kills 50, dozens wounded at Kurdish wedding in Turkey
ISIS has not yet claimed responsibility for the atrocious attack but officials said it appeared to be the work of the brutal terrorist caliphate.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu promised that Turkey will step up its fight against ISIS.
“Our border has to be completely cleansed of Daesh,” Cavusolgu said, using an Arabic acronym for the extremists. “(ISIS) martyred our … citizens. It is natural for us to struggle against such an organization both inside and outside of Turkey.”
The devastated bride and groom, who survived the wedding attack, somberly welcomed Cavusolgu’s promise.
Turkey wedding suicide bomber was 12 to 14 years old
“They turned our best day to hell. We have no relatives left. They all died,” the groom, Nurettin Akdogan, said through tears. “I hope this will be the last one. Let no one else get hurt.”
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“From now on, find a solution,” bride Besna Akdogan sobbed.
Another survivor, wedding guest Nursel Saglam, was on a rooftop overlooking the outdoor celebrations when the explosion ravaged the joyous scene. When she looked down after the earth-shattering blast, everyone below was either dead or severely injured.
“I can’t forget that moment,” Saglam said.
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The attack ripped open Turkey’s fresh wounds after the suspected ISIS attack on Istanbul’s main airport in June that killed 44 people and the double suicide bombing at a peace rally in Ankara that killed 103 people last October.