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Police crack down on mourners after bomb blasts rock Turkish capital

Security forces use tear gas to prevent pro-Kurdish politicians and others from laying flowers at site of bombings

Scuffles broke out Sunday in the Turkish capital Ankara as police used tear gas to prevent pro-Kurdish politicians and other mourners from laying carnations at the site of two suspected suicide bombings that killed 95 people and wounded hundreds in Turkey's deadliest attack in years.

Police held back the mourners, including the pro-Kurdish party's co-leaders, Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, insisting that investigators were still working at the site.

The pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), a major presence at Saturday's march, said in a statement that police attacked its members, and some were hurt in the melee.

Turkey declared three days of mourning following Saturday's nearly simultaneous explosions that targeted a peace rally in Ankara to call for increased democracy and an end to the renewed fighting between the Turkish security forces and Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebels. The rally was attended by activists, labor unions and members of the HDP, and came just weeks as Turkey holds a new election on Nov. 1.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu's office named 52 of the victims overnight and said autopsies were continuing. It said 246 wounded people were still being treated, 48 of them in intensive care. 

A group of about 70 mourners was eventually allowed to enter the cordoned off area outside the capital's main train station Sunday to briefly pay their respects for the victims.

The group of mourners then marched toward a central square in Ankara, chanting slogans against President Recep Tayip Erdogan, whom many hold responsible for the spiraling violence that has plagued Turkey since the summer.

Addressing hundreds of mourners in Ankara, Selahattin Demirtas accused the government of failing to prevent the attack.

"The state which gets information about the bird that flies and every flap of its wing, was not able to prevent a massacre in the heart of Ankara," Demirtas said.

More than 10,000 people also gathered in the mostly Kurdish southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir to condemn the blasts. The rally ended peacefully, but clashes erupted between police and a small group of protesters who broke away and marched toward a neighborhood where clashes are frequent and where authorities have declared a curfew.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Saturday's attacks, but Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Kurdish rebels and Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters were the most likely culprits. The government denies any suggestion of involvement. 

Turkish investigators worked on Sunday to identify the perpetrators and victims of the attack. The government announced Sunday that it had appointed two civil and two police chief inspectors to investigate the attack. Yeni Safak, a newspaper close to the government, said investigators had determined that one of the bombers was a male aged about 25 or 30.

The attacks came at a tense time for Turkey, whose security forces have seen renewed fighting with autonomy-seeking PKK rebels since July. Hundreds have died in the last few months as a 2012 peace process with the Kurds was shattered.

The fighting was rekindled following a similar suicide bombing in July that killed 33 peace activists near the border with Syria, which authorities said was the work of the Islamic State group.

Hours after Saturday's bombings, the PKK announced a temporary ceasefire to allow the Nov. 1 elections to proceed in a secure environment. Turkey's government has however rejected the declaration, saying the rebels must lay down arms for good and leave Turkey.

The Turkish army carried out airstrikes on PKK targets in southeastern Turkey and northern Iraq Sunday, the army said. 

Turkish military claimed to have destroyed PKK shelters and gun positions on Sunday during its raids in the Metina and Zap areas of northern Iraq.

Fourteen PKK fighters were killed on Saturday in air strikes in the Lice area of southeast Turkey, the army added.

Critics have accused Erdogan of inflaming tensions and re-igniting the fighting with the Kurds in the hope that the turmoil would rally voters back to the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP. Electoral gains by the pro-Kurdish HDP party caused the ruling party, founded by Erdogan, to lose its parliamentary majority in a June election after a decade of single-party rule.

Erdogan, who strongly denies the accusation, condemned the attacks which he said targeted the country's unity and called for solidarity.

Washington echoed Erdogan's condemnation and reiterated its support for its allies in Ankara. 

"We stand together in solidarity with the Turkish people and reaffirm our determination to continue to work with Turkey to combat the shared threat of terrorism," U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a press release Saturday. 

Turkey, a NATO member, is also on edge over developments across in Syria, with which it shares a 560 mile-long border.

Ankara has agreed to take a more active role in the U.S.-led battle against ISIL. Turkey opened up its bases to U.S. aircraft to launch air raids on the extremist group in Syria and carried out a limited number of strikes on the group itself.

Russia has also entered the fray on behalf of the Syrian government recently, bombing sites in Syria and reportedly violating Turkish airspace a few times in the past week. On Sunday, Turkey's military said two Syrian jets and surface-to-air missile systems based in Syria locked radars on three F-16 jets patrolling the Turkish-Syrian border, in a new incident of harassment of Turkish planes from Syria.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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