ISTANBUL — Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Monday the country’s border region with Syria must be «completely cleansed» of the Islamic State militant group.
His comments followed a suicide bombing late Saturday at a wedding in southeastern Turkey that killed at least 51 people.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed Islamic State for the attack in the city of Gaziantep, saying evidence pointed to the bomber being a child between the ages of 12 and 14 years old.
In an earlier written statement, Erdogan said there is «no difference» between Islamic State, the militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the PKK, and followers of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom he blames for a coup attempt last month.
«Our country and our nation have again only one message to those who attack us – you will not succeed!» he said.
The White House condemned the Gaziantep attack, saying the «perpetrators of this barbaric act cynically and cowardly targeted a wedding.» The statement Sunday added that Vice President Joe Biden will visit Ankara Wednesday to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to work together with Turkey against «scourge of terrorism.»
Blast scene sparks outrage, sorrow
All through Saturday night, ambulances rushed the wounded to hospitals across Gaziantep, a major city with a large Kurdish population.
Witnesses said the blast — the deadliest terror attack on Turkish soil this year — occurred in a packed street of people dancing and celebrating a marriage.
Speaking Sunday while surveying the wreckage, local resident Ibrahim Ozdemir said people are in shock.
”Our friends and neighbors were there. We are so sad and in pain. The attack is an atrocity.» He said, «We want to end these massacres. We are in pain, especially the women and children.”
The Turkish city is located just north of the Syrian border and about 90 kilometers from the Syrian city of Manbij.
A U.S. backed coalition of Syrian fighters and Kurds earlier this month drove IS fighters from that city after a two-month siege, pushing them into the countryside northward toward the Turkish border.