As terror continues to strike Turkey, the Erdogan govt needs to revisit many of its policies

Over the last few years turbulence in Turkey has become growingly discernible. This week's suicide bombing in Gaziantep was just the latest in Turkey’s reinvigorated subversive upheaval

With the recent bloodletting and butchery in the Turkish Pistachio heaven, it seems Turkey is becoming another Pakistan. Since 2000, Turkey had become the poster-child for those who aspire for a Muslim majority society which could amalgamate democratic principles with economic triumph. While Pakistan had stayed in the umbrage of Afghanistan’s relentless dilemma since 1979, under the governance of Erdogan Turkey had moved ahead since 2002. But over the last few years turbulence in Turkey has become growingly discernible. This week's suicide bombing in Gaziantep was just the latest in Turkey’s reinvigorated subversive upheaval. In July, 2015, Kurdish community in the southern city of Suruc was afflicted by a barbaric suicide attack. The Turkish state’s failure to pre-empt such terrorism and the Turkish army’s retaliation to an ISIS attack on the Kurdish town of Kobani last year is works of malicious insouciance. This incites speculations among Erdogan’s adversaries that his government is behind terrorist barbarity that so often has Kurds as victims. It is all horribly reminiscent of how Pakistan’s Inter-Services Institute intelligence agency played a double game with the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.

Of course, Turkey, like Pakistan, does not just confront domestic quandaries. Both live in difficult neighbourhoods. Both can assert that Western allies have pursued policies which have aggravated their situation. But each should deal with self-inflicted abrasions too. Escalating internal divisions while playing politics in a neighbour’s civil war is a blueprint for recreating Pakistan’s problems on Europe’s doorstep. That would be a disaster for the West as well as for the Turks.

On 20 August 2016, a suicide bomber targeted a wedding party in Gaziantep, Turkey, at 10:50pm local time. More than 200 people were present at the party. The attack targeted a Kurdish family who had fled the Kurdish town of Siirt due to Turkish-PKK violence; a witness reported that two suspicious individuals had approached the party and left the scene following the attack. The security forces have been looking for these two suspects. The Kurdish political party HDP announced that the attack had been carried out against the wedding of their party members. Footage from the scene of the attack was banned by Turkey's broadcast regulator RTUK. The attack came hours after Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said that Turkey could play an active role in the Syrian civil war.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) were earlier blamed for the attack by AKP parliamentary officials, though no group has yet claimed responsibility. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the attacker was believed to be between 12 and 14 years old. He also stated that the attack had probably been carried out by ISIL, which has used children in combat or to act as human bombs in attacks across the Middle East.

The revelation added a fresh layer of horror to the bombing, which also wounded dozens of others. It was the deadliest in a string of blasts across Turkey this year.

The bomb struck in crowded streets of the Beybahce neighborhood of Gaziantep's Sahinbey district during celebrations for the wedding of a Kurdish couple.

The blast disproportionately killed women and children, as it had been timed to detonate during a part of the festivities when those groups painted themselves with henna, authorities said.

As the dead were swiftly laid to rest, in accordance with Islamic tradition, their loved ones spoke of their anguish. Hakki Okur, 14, was among the young victims. His cousin, Mesut Bozkurt, recounted searching for the teen throughout the night following the blast before his family was summoned to the hospital to identify his body.

A senior security official told Reuters the device used was the same type as those employed in the July 2015 suicide attack in the border town of Suruc and the October 2015 suicide bombing of a rally of pro-Kurdish activists in Ankara.

Both of those attacks were blamed on Islamic State. The group has targeted Kurdish gatherings in an apparent effort to further inflame ethnic tensions strained by a long Kurdish insurgency. The Ankara bombing was the deadliest of its kind in Turkey, killing more than 100 people. "Daesh should be completely cleansed from our borders and we are ready to do what it takes for that," Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said at a news conference in Ankara, using an Arabic name for the group.

On Monday, Turkey's military launched howitzer attacks on Islamic State while artillery pounded Kurdish YPG militants in Syria, whom Ankara sees as an extension of its own Kurdish insurgency. An official said the strikes were designed to "open a corridor for moderate rebels". A senior rebel official said Turkish-backed Syrian rebels were preparing to launch an attack to seize Jarablus from Islamic State, a move that would deny control to advancing Syrian Kurdish fighters.

The rebels, groups fighting under the banner of the Free Syrian Army, are expected to attack Jarablus from inside Turkey in the next few days. Reuters TV footage showed around 10 Turkish tanks deployed at a village around 4 km (2.5 miles) from the border gate immediately across from Jarablus. It was not clear how long the tanks had been there. Cavusoglu said Turkey, a member of NATO and the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State, had become the "number one target" for the militants because of its work to stop recruits traveling through Turkey across its over 800 km (500 mile) border into Syria to join the Sunni hardline group.

For Ankara, Islamic State is not the only threat across its frontier. Turkey is also concerned that attempts by Syrian Kurds to extend their control along the common border could add momentum to an insurgency by Kurds on its own territory. The attack comes with Turkey still shaken just a month after the government survived an attempted coup by rogue military officers, which Ankara blames on U.S.-based Islamist preacher Fethullah Gulen. Gulen denies the charge. Turkish authorities have said a destroyed suicide vest was found at the scene of the bombing.

A second security official told Reuters that they were investigating the possibility militants could have placed the explosives on the child without his or her knowledge and detonated them remotely, or that a child with a learning disability was duped into carrying the device, a tactic seen elsewhere in the region.

"It could be that someone was loaded with explosives without even being aware of it and it may have been detonated remotely," the official said, adding a search was underway for suspected militants who may have played a reconnaissance role.

In the latest southeast violence, two Turkish security force members and five PKK militants were killed in clashes and attacks in three areas of eastern Turkey, officials said.

Some in Turkey, particularly in the Kurdish southeast, feel the government has not done enough to protect its citizens from Islamic State. The pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) said the wedding party was for one of its members. The groom was among those injured, but the bride was not hurt.

I am alarmed by the pace of attacks going on in brotherly nation of Turkey and can only pray for a cessation of terrorist carnages in the motherland of our brave Turkish brothers who have surmounted several obstacles triumphantly since their inception as Republic of Turkey in 1923 under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Sarmad Iqbal is a writer, blogger, columnist and a student at FC College Lahore. He can be followed at Twitter @sarmadiqbal7.

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