SURUC (Turkey) • At least 28 people, mostly young university students, were killed in a Turkish town near the Syrian border yesterday, in what officials said appeared to be a suicide bomb attack mounted by militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Television footage showed bodies lying beneath trees outside a cultural centre in the mostly Kurdish town of Suruc in south-eastern Turkey, some 10km from the Syrian town of Kobane, where Kurdish fighters have been battling ISIS.
The blast tore through a group of mostly university-aged students from an activist group as they gathered to make a statement to the local press about a trip they were planning to help rebuild Kobane.
The Hurriyet daily said the attacker was an 18-year-old woman, but there was no confirmation.
"Our initial evidence shows that this was a suicide attack by Islamic State," one senior official in Ankara told Reuters, referring to ISIS.
A second official also said ISIS appeared to have been responsible and that the attack was a "retaliation for the Turkish government's efforts to fight terrorism".
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said 28 people were killed and around 100 wounded. The death toll could rise.
It was the bloodiest such attack in Nato member Turkey since at least 50 people were killed in the town of Reyhanli near the border in 2013.
The explosion comes weeks after Turkey deployed additional troops and equipment along parts of its border with Syria, concerned about the risk of spillover as fighting between Kurdish forces, rebel groups, Syrian government troops and ISIS militants intensifies.
Turkey's leaders have said that there are no plans for any unilateral military incursion into Syria but have also said that they will do whatever is necessary to defend the country's borders.
"I condemn those who conducted this brutality," President Erdogan said. "Terror has no religion, no country, no race."
Ankara fears any disorder in the border area could reignite an armed Kurdish separatist rebellion by the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) that has killed some 40,000 since 1984.
Turkey's Kurds have been enraged by what they see as Ankara's failure to do more to stop ISIS.
The PKK held the government responsible for yesterday's attack, saying that it had "supported and cultivated" ISIS against the Kurds.
Any unrest would also concern Western allies who seek greater controls on a porous border that serves as a front line in the battle against ISIS.
Kobane was the site of one of the biggest battles against ISIS last year and was secured by Syrian Kurdish fighters last month after repeated assaults.