A suicide bomber attacked a Kurdish wedding party in Turkey near the country’s border with Syria on Saturday night local time, killing at least 51 people and wounding 69 others.
Of the 69 people wounded in the detonation, which took place in the town of Gaziantep, 17 were in critical condition, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech Sunday.
Erdogan said the bomber was a child between 12 and 14 years old and in an earlier statement attributed the attack to the Islamic State.
“As of now, the preliminary conclusions by our governor’s office and the police establishment point to an attack by Daesh,” Erdogan said, using a pejorative term for the Islamic State. No group has claimed responsibility yet.
The detonation was the deadliest in a string of bombings that have roiled Turkey this year. In June, an attack on Istanbul’s airport killed more than 40 people and injured more than 200 others.
But the targeting of a Kurdish wedding highlights internal tensions within Turkish society, reflecting a decades-old conflict within the country. Since 1984, the government has been fighting a Kurdish militant group, known as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK, which aims to establish an independent Kurdish state.
Reuters reported that protests occurred during at least one funeral by those who felt the government has not sufficiently protected Turkish citizens.
In a statement, the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party noted that the bombing occurred just hours after a Kurdish organization, which includes the PKK, publicized its intentions to pursue a peace process to end the conflict with the government.
“This attack targets those determined and persistent in peace, resolution, and those struggling for democracy, equality, freedom and justice,” the statement said. “The attack was planned to disable the spread of peace and success of possible negotiations.”
Both Erdogan and analysts said that attacks targeting Turkish Kurds serve to destabilize Turkey, which is part of the anti-Islamic State coalition, and thereby prove beneficial to the Islamic State.
“ISIS has been trying to agitate or exploit already tense ethnic and sectarian faultlines” in Turkey, and weaken Kurdish militants who play a role in the Syrian war, Metin Gurcan, a security analyst and former Turkish military officer, said. “For ISIS, it is hitting two birds with one stone.”