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Turkish investigators focus bombing probe on ISIL

Ankara says weekend attacks resemble previous bombing blamed on ISIL, but protesters vent anger at President Erdogan

Turkish investigators were close to identifying one of the suicide bombers in Turkey's deadliest attacks in years, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Monday, adding that the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) was the "No. 1 priority" of the investigation. But opponents vented anger at President Tayyip Erdogan at funerals, universities and courthouses.

In an interview with private NTV television, Davutoglu said more vaguely that the evidence pointed to a "certain group" which he refused to identify.

"It was definitely a suicide bombing. DNA tests are being conducted. It was determined how the suicide bombers got there. We're close to a name, which points to one group," he said.

The rally on Saturday was organized by Turkish and Kurdish activists to call for increased democracy and an end to the renewed fighting between Turkey's security forces and Kurdish rebels that has killed hundreds since July. The government raised the death toll in the weekend attack to 97, including one Palestinian. A pro-Kurdish party has said that up to 128 people died.

On Monday hundreds chanting anti-government slogans marched on a mosque in an Istanbul suburb for the funeral of several of the victims. The protest was attended by Selahattin Demirtas, leader of the pro-Kurdish parliamentary opposition Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), which says it was the target of Saturday’s bombings.

Riot police with water cannon and armored vehicles stood by as the crowd, some chanting 'Thief, Murderer Erdogan' and waving HDP flags, moved towards the mosque in the working class  Umraniye neighborhood.

Several labor unions also called protests. Hundreds of people, many wearing doctors' uniforms and carrying Turkish Medical Association banners, gathered by the main train station in Ankara where the explosions happened to lay red carnations but were blocked by riot police.

Lawyers at an Istanbul courthouse chanted 'Murderer Erdogan will give account' as colleagues applauded, footage circulated on social media showed.

On Monday, Yeni Safak, a newspaper close to the government, said authorities investigating the bombings were focusing on ISIL, comparing DNA samples of the suspected bombers with those obtained from families of some 20 people they suspect could have carried out the attacks.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but they bear similarities to a suicide bombing that killed 33 Turkish and Kurdish peace activists near the town of Suruc on the Syrian border in July. The government blamed that attack on ISIL. Hurriyet newspaper said the type of device and explosives used in Ankara were the same as those used in Suruc.

On Sunday police detained four suspected ISIL members in a raid in the southern city of Adana, the regional governor's office said Monday. The detentions raised the number of suspected ISIL fighters taken into custody in four cities since Saturday to around 40.

It was not clear if any of the arrests were linked to the peace rally bombings.

Turkey agreed recently to more actively support the U.S.-led battle against ISIL, opening its bases to U.S. aircraft launching airstrikes on the group in Syria and carrying out a limited number of strikes itself.

Davutoglu said Turkey had received intelligence that Kurdish separatists or ISIL were planning suicide bombings and said two would-be bombers were detained before Saturday's attack.

"There was general intelligence concerning a team called the 'immortals' within Daesh (ISIL) making preparations, concerning preparations by the PKK," Davutoglu said.

He said the attack aimed to influence the result of Turkey's Nov. 1 election and cast a shadow over the polls. He did not elaborate.

Davutoglu rejected opposition accusations that the attacks were a result of Turkey's involvement in the conflict in Syria and that the government was dragging the country into a quagmire.

"These attacks won't turn Turkey into a Syria," Davutoglu said.

Government opponents have also accused President Erdogan of fomenting violence to gain votes for the ruling party — an accusation the Turkish leader rejects.

Wire services

Turkey mourns the victims of the Ankara attacks

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