Pope Francis prays for Turkey following Ankara bombings

"The perpetrators hit defenseless people who were demonstrating for peace," says pontiff.

October 11, 2015 14:54
1 minute read.
Pope Francis

Pope Francis waves to pilgrims, gathered in St. Peter's square at Vatican, from the window of his appartment during his Sunday Angelus prayer on October 11, 2015.. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO PINTO)

MILAN - Pope Francis said on Sunday he was deeply saddened by the killing of defenseless people in Saturday's bomb blasts in Ankara, the most deadly attack of its kind on Turkish soil.

Two suspected suicide bombers hit a rally of pro-Kurdish and labor activists near Ankara's main train station three weeks before an election, killing at least 95 people and fueling unease in a country beset by conflict between state forces and Kurdish insurgents.

The pope asked thousands of faithful in Saint Peter's Square on Sunday to pray in silence for the victims after his weekly Angelus address.

"We are pained... because the perpetrators hit defenseless people who were demonstrating for peace. I pray for that dear country," Francis said.

The two blasts happened seconds apart on Saturday morning as crowds, including pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) activists, leftists, labor unions and other civic groups, gathered for a march to protest over the deaths of hundreds since conflict resumed between security forces and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the mainly Kurdish southeast.

There were no claims of responsibility for the attack, which came as external threats mount for NATO member Turkey with increased fighting across its border with Syria and incursions by Russian warplanes on its air space over the last week.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, exposing a mosaic of domestic political perils, said Islamic State, Kurdish or far-leftist insurgents could have carried out the bombing.

A senior government official said on Sunday that the November 1 parliamentary election will take place despite the bombings.

"Postponing the elections as a result of the attack is not on the table at all, even as an option," the official clarified.

The Turkish Prime Minister's Office said Sunday morning that 160 people were still being treated in hospitals, 65 of them in intensive care.

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