An explosion outside a cultural center in the Turkish town of Suruc near the border with Syria killed at least 31 people and wounded many more on Monday, in what senior officials said may have been a suicide bombing by Islamic State militants.
Television footage showed bodies lying beneath trees outside the building in the mostly Kurdish town in southeastern Turkey, some 10 km (6 miles) from the Syrian town of Kobani, where Kurdish fighters have been battling Islamic State.
"Our initial evidence shows that this was a suicide attack by Islamic State," one senior official in Ankara told Reuters.
A second official also said Islamic State appeared to have been responsible and that the attack was a "retaliation for the Turkish government\’s efforts to fight terrorism".
NATO member Turkey\’s interior ministry said 31 people were killed and around 100 wounded. The death toll could rise.
"I saw more than 20 bodies. I think the number of wounded is more than 100. They are still being put into ambulances," one witness told Reuters by telephone, giving his name as Mehmet. "It was a huge explosion, we all shook."
The explosion comes weeks after Turkey deployed additional troops and equipment along parts of its border with Syria, concerned about the risk of spillover as fighting between Kurdish forces, rebel groups, Syrian government troops and Islamic State militants intensifies.
Turkey\’s leaders have said they do not plan any unilateral military incursion into Syria but have also said they will do whatever necessary to defend the country\’s borders.
Ankara fears any disorder in the border area could re-ignite an armed Kurdish separatist rebellion that has killed some 40,000 since 1984. It would also concern Western allies who seek greater controls on a porous frontier that serves as a frontline in the battle against Islamic State.