Turkish court jails eight for 2016 suicide bombing on wedding

Ankara: A Turkish court on Thursday jailed eight people for multiple life sentences for ties to a 2016 Islamic State-linked suicide bombing on a Kurdish wedding that killed 57 people, state media reported.

The attack in the southern town of Gaziantep near the border with Syria was one of a series of deadly assaults in 2016 that prompted Ankara to target militants across the border in Syria.

At least 34 children were among those killed on August 20, 2016 when the bomb tore through the weekend wedding as the party was breaking up. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed IS militants.

Eight suspects were given multiple aggravated life sentences by a court in the Anatolian city of Kayseri, state news agency Anadolu reported. The case was heard in that city because of “public safety reasons”, the agency said.

Charges included violating the constitution and murder. One suspect was also sentenced for the deaths of three police officers killed in October 2016 during a raid as part of the investigation into the August attack, the agency said.

The Gaziantep bombing was the deadliest in 2016 in Turkey by IS or by Kurdish militants, including a multiple suicide bomb attack on Istanbul’s Ataturk airport.

The attack and shelling from IS controlled areas in Syria prompted Ankara to push for a military operation to clear the Syrian border area of IS militants.

Islamic State’s self-declared “caliphate” has collapsed since then when it controlled large parts of Syria and Iraq. A last pocket of militants is battling in a small area they control in eastern Syria.

At the start of the Syrian conflict, Turkey was the main route for foreign fighters to cross into Syria to join the jihadists. Turkey later cracked down on the border and stepped up arrests of suspected foreign jihadists.