A high-profile funeral was held for the six blast victims at the Bahaeddin Nak?bo?lu Mosque in the afternoon. Two other victims were laid to rest on Tuesday, and another victim was buried in his hometown earlier on Wednesday.
“I want the entire world to understand that it [the terrorist attack in Gaziantep] was not a means of seeking rights. It was an act of terror carried out in an organized manner by people who have lost their human feelings,” an angry and sorrowful President Abdullah Gül stated, condemning the brutal killings of the nine civilians.
On Monday night, a car bomb exploded near a police station in Gaziantep, a province close to Turkey’s border with Syria. Nine people — all civilians, and including four children — were killed in the blast, and as many as 70 people were wounded. The blast was caused by the detonation of a cache of explosives loaded onto a truck parked near the Kar??yaka Police Department.
The deadly blast came on the second day of Eid al-Fitr, the three-day religious holiday that follows the holy month of Ramadan. Turkish authorities say the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is believed to be behind the attack. However, the terrorist group denied responsibility for it.
On Wednesday, top state officials flocked to Gaziantep to attend the funeral service. Besides the president, the ceremony was attended by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an, Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek, Interior Minister ?dris Naim ?ahin, Deputy Prime Minister Hüseyin Çelik, Chairman of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) Kemal K?l?çdaro?lu, Chairman of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Devlet Bahçeli, Gaziantep Governor Erdal Ata, Gaziantep Mayor As?m Güzelbey and relatives of the victims as well as many locals. The funeral prayers were led by Religious Affairs Directorate head Mehmet Görmez.
Some of the high-profile participants shed tears during the ceremony. Locals carried Turkish flags in memory of the blast victims and chanted slogans denouncing PKK terrorism. “Martyrs never die, the country is never divided,” they shouted.
Görmez appealed to participants of the funeral for common sense and asked them not to be provoked. “Our greatest duty to our martyrs today is to bind together and reinforce our unity more than ever,” he said.
Following the ceremony, the six victims were buried in the Gaziantep Asri Cemetery. The remains of one other victim — Davut Azak — were sent to his hometown, Diyarbak?r, for burial early on Wednesday. Azak was married with three children. His brother, Haydar, said Davut worked as a prison guard in Gaziantep for three years. “I want the bloodshed which has been ongoing for several years to stop. I want peace to come [to Turkey] as soon as possible,” he told reporters. Davut Azak was buried in the Ergani City Cemetery.
The attack in Gaziantep followed the killing of 15 PKK terrorists in Hakkari by Turkish security forces early on Monday. In addition, around 150 PKK terrorists were killed in ?emdinli, a district of Hakkari province, in July as part of large-scale military operations in the area.
The PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the EU and the US, has been waging a bloody campaign in Turkey’s Southeast since 1984. More than 40,000 people have been killed to date in the decades-long conflict.
MHP Chairman Bahçeli called a press conference at the office of his party in Gaziantep before the ceremony. He condemned the attack, describing it as an “attempt by terrorists to incite battle between brothers in Turkey.” He added: “Butchers of humanity are continuing to claim the lives of innocent people regardless of whether they are kids, women or the elderly. Our beloved people no longer have the patience to tolerate what is going on. … I am condemning with all my strength this immoral, treacherous and cursed attack.”
Bahçeli also said state officials should focus on why terrorists had picked Gaziantep to attack. Gaziantep — home to different cultures and races — is famous for its calm and peaceful atmosphere. It is rarely hit by incidents of terror. According to Bahçeli, Syria or some other country could have had a hand in the Gaziantep attack. “The attack is either the direct work of the PKK, or it could have been assigned to the PKK by Syria or some other country in the region,” he said.
The Gaziantep attack has led some analysts to speculate that the Syrian military intelligence organization, Mukhabarat, could be behind it. The Gaziantep blast came at a delicate time for the Turkish government, which is providing refuge to tens of thousands of Syrians who have fled the civil war in their country, and is seeking, along with its Western and Arab allies, the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In past attacks, Turkey has accused neighboring Syria of supporting the PKK.
Earlier on Wednesday, CHP leader K?l?çdaro?lu paid a visit to the family of Süleyman Alkan, a 3-year-old victim of the Gaziantep attack, to express his condolences. Alkan’s parents and brother escaped the attack with minor injuries. The Alkan family said they were honored by K?l?çdaro?lu’s visit.
Alkan’s father, ?brahim, said he was on his way to a grocery store with his wife and sons at the time of the blast. “I saw every moment of the blast. The car exploded and every place turned into a ball of fire. My son Mehmet was with me. I turned back and saw my wife and our son Süleyman lying on the floor. I hugged Süleyman and carried him to the next street. Then I fainted,” said ?brahim Alkan, describing the attack.
In response, the CHP leader expressed his condolences and said he hoped Turkey would not experience bitter times any more. He later paid a visit to other victims of the terrorist attack who are still receiving treatment at a Gaziantep hospital.