At least 30 people were killed and nearly 100 wounded after an explosion in the southeastern Turkish town of Suruc, on the border with Syria, the Interior Ministry in Ankara has said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, but an official told Reuters that “initial evidence” suggests that the assault was a suicide attack carried out by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
A second official also said ISIL appeared to be responsible and that the attack was in "retaliation for the Turkish government's efforts to fight terrorism."
Television footage of the aftermath of the bombing showed bodies lying beneath trees and outside a building in the mostly Kurdish town, some 6 miles from the border with Syria.
"I saw more than 20 bodies. I think the number of wounded is more than 50. 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."
A representative of a Kurdish party told Al Jazeera that the body of a suicide bomber was found among the dead.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Cyprus on an official visit, was briefed on the investigation, according to the state-run Anadolu Agency.
"I personally and on behalf of my nation condemn and curse those who perpetrated this savagery," he said in a news conference broadcast on Turkish television.
Suruc is across the border from the Syrian city of Kobane, the scene of fierce battles between Kurdish groups and ISIL. Kobane's recapture was ISIL’s biggest defeat last year, after it established control over swaths of Iraq and Syria, and the city has become a symbol of Kurdish resistance against the group.
A Kurdish official in Kobane, Idriss Naasan, told The Associated Press that a second bomb went off south of the Syrian town, causing minor damage and no casualties. The explosion occurred near a Kurdish militia checkpoint on the road to Syria's largest city, Aleppo.
The explosion in Suruc came just 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 ISIL members intensifies.
Turkey's leaders have said that they do not plan any unilateral military incursion into Syria but that they will do whatever necessary to defend the country's borders.
Ankara fears any disorder in the border area could reignite an armed Kurdish rebellion that has killed some 40,000 since 1984. It would also concern Western allies, which seek greater controls on a porous frontier that serves as a front line in the battle against ISIL
Monday's blast occurred at a cultural center while the Federation of Socialist Youth Associations was giving a statement to the press on Kobane's reconstruction. Fatma Edemen, 22, said the federation was pressing for more access to help with reconstruction efforts.
Then the explosion hit.
"One of my friends protected me. First I thought, 'I am dying,' but I was OK. I started to run after I saw the bodies," she told AP by phone as she headed to a hospital to get treatment for minor injuries to her legs.
Al Jazeera and wire services