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Hundreds march in Ankara to condemn slaughter at peace rally

TURKISH

Ankara: Hundreds of people marched through Istanbul and the Turkish capital of Ankara today to condemn the slaughter by suicide bombers at a weekend peace rally, with many venting their anger at the Turkish government itself.

Some demonstrators chanted: “The killer state will be held to account!”

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, however, rejected accusations by opponents that the government was to blame for the nearly simultaneous attacks Saturday, calling them “dangerous” and “dastardly.”

He also denied that they were a result of Turkey’s involvement in war in Syria and that the government was dragging the country into the Middle Eastern quagmire.

The government believes two male suicide bombers killed at least 97 people and wounded hundreds at a rally Saturday in Ankara by opposition supporters and Kurdish activists.

“These attacks won’t turn Turkey into a Syria,” Davutoglu said.

Government opponents have also accused President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of fomenting violence and ethnic tensions to gain votes for the ruling party in Turkey’s November 1 election an accusation that the Turkish leader rejects.

In the last election in June, a Kurdish party gained support from voters, taking away the ruling party’s majority in Parliament and Erdogan wants that majority back.

Turkish investigators were close to identifying one of the two suicide bombers, the prime minister said today, adding that the Islamic State group was the “No 1 priority” of its investigation.

The rally Saturday was organized by Turkish and Kurdish activists to call for increased democracy and an end to the renewed fighting between Turkey’s security forces and Kurdish rebels that has killed hundreds of soldiers, rebels and citizens since July.

Today, Yeni Safak, a newspaper close to the government, said authorities investigating the bombings were focusing on the Islamic State group, comparing DNA samples of the suspected bombers with those obtained from the families of some 20 extremists they suspect could have carried out the attacks.

No one has claimed responsibility, but the attack bears similarities to a suicide bombing in July that killed 33 Turkish and Kurdish peace activists near the southern town of Suruc, which borders Syria. The government blamed that attack on the Islamic State group.