Four held in Turkey over bombing as suicide vests uncovered

Ella Ide
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People carry the coffin of Serdar Ben, a victim of the twin bombings in Ankara, during his funeral in Istanbul on October 15, 2015

People carry the coffin of Serdar Ben, a victim of the twin bombings in Ankara, during his funeral in Istanbul on October 15, 2015 (AFP Photo/Ozan Kose)

Istanbul (AFP) - Prosecutors on Monday held four people suspected in the deadliest bomb attack in Turkey's recent history and said they had discovered a cache of suicide vests, Kalashnikovs and hand grenades, according to state media and officials.

The four, who went before a judge on Sunday night to be remanded in custody, were charged with making "explosive devices with the intention to kill" and "an attempt to disrupt constitutional order", according to the state news agency Anatolia.

The prosecutor in charge of the case issued a warrant for nine others accused of playing a part in the twin suicide bombings in Ankara on October 10 attack in which 102 people were killed.

Turkish authorities have said the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group is the "number one suspect" for the attack.

The blasts targeted a pro-Kurdish and liberal peace rally which had called for an end to hostilities between Turkish security forces and Kurdish rebels.

Police on Sunday arrested some 50 foreign nationals in a sweep targeting suspected IS jihadists with alleged links to the bombings. Turkey is the main point of entry to Syria for IS recruits.

Prosecutors on Monday announced that stashes of weapons and ammunition had been found during searches of homes and vehicles belonging to suspects.

"A Ford Focus car used in the Ankara attack has been found, as well as 11 suicide vests, six Kalashnikovs, 22 hand grenades, 1,683 bullets and hundreds of kilograms (pounds) of explosives," they said in a statement.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu confirmed Monday that one of the suicide bombers had been officially identified through DNA testing, with prosecutors naming him as Yunus Emre Alagoz.

A young Turk from the southeastern Islamist militant stronghold of Adiyaman, Alagoz was the brother of the man suspected of carrying out a similar attack in Suruc, a southern town on the Syrian border, that killed 34 people in July, most of them Kurdish and leftist activists.

"The other suicide bomber has been identified through photographs and efforts are going on to reveal his full identity," prosecutors added.

- 'Travelled from Syria' -

They said Alagoz, believed to have trained with IS jihadists in Syria, had travelled "from a neighbouring country on our southern borders in order to carry out the attack".

Turkish media had earlier identified the second bomber as Omer Deniz Dundar, who had twice been to Syria.

Davutoglu said the government was exploring ties between attacks on Suruc, Ankara and another bombing in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir.

Five people were killed in Diyarbakir in June after a bomb exploded during a pre-election campaign rally for the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP). One man was arrested for involvement in that attack.

A total of 768 people have been arrested over suspected links to IS since the Suruc attack in July, the prime minister said, pledging to track down those responsible for the latest carnage.

Many of those arrested have since been released.

The four remanded in custody on Sunday were part of a group originally detained due to suspicious posts on Twitter, reports said.

Davutoglu, head of the Islamic-rooted AKP ruling party, said he believed "groups like Daesh, the PKK and DHKP-C... are working hand in hand to harm Turkey and drag it into chaos," referring to IS, the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party and the far-left Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front.

The Ankara attack has widened a dangerous political divide as Turkey prepares for a snap election on November 1 and as the military wages an offensive against the IS and Kurdish militants.

Selahattin Demirtas, the charismatic HDP chief, is on a collision course with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, accusing him of presiding over a "mafia state" responsible for the bombings.

Many of those killed in the attack were HDP members, including two of its candidates for parliament.

Pressure has piled on Erdogan, with opposition figures blaming him for security lapses over the Ankara bombing and failing to crack down on IS.