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VIDEO Deadly blast on Turkey-Syria Border Kills Dozens *GRAPHIC*

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VIDEO Deadly blast on Turkey-Syria Border Kills Dozens *GRAPHIC*

A suicide bombing hit a cultural center in a Turkish town near the Syrian border on Monday, killing at least 30 and wounding more than 100 in an attack that Turkey’s prime minister suggested had been plotted by the Islamic State.

The assault, in the town of Suruc, was the deadliest in Turkey in more than two years. If the Islamic State is confirmed to be behind the assault, it would be the organization’s first mass killing of civilians in Turkey and the worst spillover in deadly violence from Syria’s civil war.

It was carried out two weeks after Turkey intensified efforts to combat Islamic extremists by arresting hundreds across the country in a series of raids. On Saturday, Turkish security forces arrested nearly 500 people trying to cross from Turkey into northern Syria, where the Islamic State has firmly entrenched itself.

When Turkish authorities blocked access to several Islamic news websites last week, Islamic State sympathizers in Turkey threatened to carry out an unspecified retaliation.

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“For the first time, the war along Turkey’s borders moved within Turkey on Monday,” said Verda Ozer, a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based research group, who was recently in Suruc.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, speaking about the Suruc bombing at a news conference in Ankara, the capital, said preliminary findings pointed to “a suicide attack carried out by Daesh,” the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL.

He said, however, that “we are not at a point to make a final judgment.”

Turkish officials universally condemned the assault as an act of terrorism and some suggested it was retaliation for the government’s crackdown. The Interior Ministry said the assault was a “terrorist attack targeting our country’s unity.”

The explosion was the deadliest attack inside Turkey since car bombings in May 2013 left dozens dead in the town of Reyhanli, right by the Syrian border. Turkish officials blamed supporters of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, for that assault.

Relations between Turkey and Syria, which share a border of more than 500 miles, have steadily worsened during the Syrian civil war, now more than four years old. Turkey houses one of the largest populations of Syrian refugees.

While Turkey has not gone as far as the United States and its Western and Arab allies with airstrikes against suspected Islamic State targets, the Turks have increasingly cooperated with the goal of degrading the group’s capabilities.

United States officials said on Monday it was too early to attribute the Suruc attack to retribution for Turkey’s more assertive effort to combat the Islamic State, although that is a concern going forward.

“The Turks will be faced with this reality at some point,” said a senior American official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential intelligence assessments. “I don’t think they’ll backslide.”

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in Istanbul’s central Taksim Square late Monday to march in solidarity with the victims of the bombing. The police dispersed the crowds with tear gas and water cannons after some chanted slogans against the government, accusing it of collaborating with Islamic State militants.

An official at the mayor’s office in Suruc said that the explosion on Monday hit the Amara Cultural Center during a gathering of a youth group of Turks and Kurds meeting to discuss entering Kobani, the town across the border in Syria that has been ravaged by fighting and is in urgent need of rebuilding.

Amateur video footage published by the Dogan News Agency shows a youth group chanting slogans and carrying a banner in the garden of the culture center before an explosion ripped through the crowd.

Witnesses said that two men had been seen carrying bags into the garden of the cultural center before blowing themselves up.

“Bodies and body parts were scattered all over the place,” said Mustafa Ebdi, a Kurdish activist based in Suruc who arrived at the scene shortly after the blast. “Passers-by rushed to evacuate the wounded from the scene and then rushed them to the hospital.”

Television footage showed dozens of people lying on the grass as plumes of smoke rose up from the ground. Ambulances and private cars arrived to pick up the wounded.

Suruc is about eight miles from the Syrian town of Kobani, which Kurdish fighters have defended from repeated attacks by the Islamic State as a military coalition led by the United States has carried out airstrikes. The Islamic State suffered a blow when it lost control of Kobani in January.

Another explosion was reported in Kobani on Monday, but the cause was not immediately clear.

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International

Syria al-Qaeda Leader Attacked, Unsure of His Survival

An air strike struck Abu al-Khayr al-Masri in the Syrian province of Idlib on Sunday, based on unconfirmed reports.

The Egyptian is second-in-command to overall al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, according to BBC News.

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An air strike struck Abu al-Khayr al-Masri in the Syrian province of Idlib on Sunday, based on unconfirmed reports.

The Egyptian is second-in-command to overall al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, according to BBC News.

Syrian opposition forces, the Local Co-ordination Committees, posted a photo of the car which was targeted for the attack, as stated by them.

Car with roof shattered is shown in photo taken from Syrian opposition activists

The car, in the town of al-Mastuma, was targeted by “international coalition aircraft”, the group said.

Additionally, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that an al-Qaeda official was killed in a strike, but did not confirm it was Abu al-Khayr al-Masri.

The Egyptian, whose real name is Abdullah Muhammad Rajab Abd al-Rahman, was reportedly released from custody by Iran in 2015 as part of a prisoner swap.

Last year, Abu al-Khayr al-Masri was reported to have given his blessing to a decision by al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, al-Nusra Front, to cut formal ties with the global jihadist network.

The Syrian jihadist with ties broken with al-Qaeda had renamed its name to Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham, as reported by CNN.

According to Ahmad Hasan Abu al Khayr al-Masri, al-Qaeda has embraced the split. The man Masri would replace as an upranking to No. 2 of the leadership position in the terror group, is al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Zawahiri expressed his opinion on the split in a supportive manner and called for infighting between jihadist groups to end.

Although Jabhat Fateh al-Sham was no longer linked to an external entity, the U.S. still kept it on its list of foreign terrorist groups and continued to target air strikes.

Therefore, in January, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham dissolved itself and formed an alliance with four smaller Syrian jihadist groups called Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. The move seemed to deem an attempt by the group to distance itself from al-Qaeda.

Tahrir al-Sham as since then fought rebel groups for control of the Idlib province in Syria, implying that it was them who had instigated suicide bombs on Saturday against the military in the government-controlled city of Homs.

Although the death of Abu al-Khayr al-Masri is uncertain, the Guardian has stated that he has been killed based off of what jihadists are stating.

The immediate circumstances of Masri’s death were unclear. Video online showed a tan four-door Kia sedan destroyed at a roadside with a large hole in its canopy but its windscreen mostly intact. The location of the attack was unusually far west for a US drone strike.

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International

Honor Killings are Never Justifiable, Not Ever or Anywhere!

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I have decided to shed some light on some insights about honor killings, amidst one that occurred in my parents’ home country, Pakistan, yesterday. An upcoming supermodel by the name of Qandeel Baloch was killed by her brother in Multan, Paksitan while her parents were in their bedroom, asleep. The model was allegedly there to visit family or for other reasons. The brother who strangled her to death, reportedly after he drugged her, was interviewed and showed no remorse for his wrongdoing. Of course, what he did is inexcusable in all ways and is unsurpassable as a violation and a wrongdoing!

Baloch’s brother, who took her life, was embarrassed by his sister’s career as a supermodel and was aghast at her actions in this profession. This, however, can never justify the fact that he felt he had to end her life. Not only in this culture, mostly and especially in Pakistan’s rural areas, is this prevalent. It happens in other areas of the world and this is not attributable to Pakistanis or any type of Muslim or the religion itself, Islam. Anyway, surely you can recall the incident that was reported on television a few years ago. A man killed his daughter by running her over with a car, as well as her attempts to kill her boyfriend and his mother. He killed her because she had a boyfriend.

Oppressing women is not taught in any culture or religion, and is inexcusable in any way. A woman has the right to live however she pleases, at least I genuinely believe in this, and she should not have to fear for her life.

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Breaking News

Turkish Military Attempts to Overthrow President

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insisted to the nation Saturday that his government is in charge following a coup attempt brought a night of explosions, air battles, gunfire and unrest across the capital and left at least 90 dead, 1,154 people wounded and more than 1,000 military personnel detained.

In a press conference at Ataturk Airport, Erdogan said the architects of the coup attempt would “pay a heavy price” and vowed he would “not surrender this country to intruders.”

A senior Turkish official told the Associated Press that 1,563 military personnel have been detained in the coup attempt.

A Turkish lawmaker contacted by Reuters said he and his colleagues were hiding in special shelters in the bowels of the parliament building after at least three explosions near the complex in the capital, Ankara. Parliament Speaker Ismail Kahraman told the Associated Press a bomb hit one corner of a public relations building inside the parliament complex, injuring some police officers.

Elsewhere, troops also fired in the air to disperse a growing crowd of government supporters at the Taksim monument in Istanbul as military helicopters flew overhead. A nearby mosque made an anti-coup announcement over its loudspeakers.

Erdogan insisted that the coup attempt wouldn’t succeed.

“They have pointed the people’s guns against the people. The president, whom 52 percent of the people brought to power, is in charge,” he said. “This government brought to power by the people, is in charge. They won’t succeed as long as we stand against them by risking everything.”

In his TV address, Erdogan blamed the attack on supporters of Fethullah Gulen.

Erdogan has long accused the cleric and his supporters of attempting to overthrow the government. The cleric lives in exile in Pennsylvania and promotes a philosophy that blends a mystical form of Islam with staunch advocacy of democracy, education, science and interfaith dialogue.

Turkey’s allies, fellow NATO member nations and world leaders swiftly reacted Friday to an attempted coup Friday night, which could spur immense implications, not only in the Middle East, but also in the West.

“The United States views with gravest concern events unfolding in Turkey,” said Secretary of State John Kerry.

He said the State Department was “monitoring a fluid situation,” and “emphasized the United States’ absolute support for Turkey’s democratically-elected, civilian government and democratic institutions.”

The U.S. State Department urged U.S. citizens in Turkey to shelter in place during the attempted coup.

President Barack Obama had been briefed on the situation. “The president and secretary agreed that all parties in Turkey should support the democratically-elected government of Turkey, show restraint and avoid any violence or bloodshed,” a White House statement said.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg wrote in a tweet that he spoke with the Turkish foreign minister. “I call for calm, restraint & full respect for Turkey’s democratic institutions and constitution,” Stoltenberg wrote, without saying what actions, if any, NATO would take. Turkey joined NATO in 1952.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed for calm as the world body sought to clarify the situation, said a U.N. spokesman.

“The Secretary-General is closely following developments in Turkey. He is aware of the reports of a coup attempt in the country. The United Nations is seeking to clarify the situation on the ground and appeals for calm,” said spokesman Farhan Haq.

Britain’s government was also monitoring the turmoil. “We are concerned by events unfolding in Ankara and Istanbul. Our Embassy is monitoring the situation closely,” a British foreign ministry spokeswoman said.

British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson also said he was “very concerned.”

The foreign minister of Turkey’s neighbor to the east said he was “deeply concerned about the crisis in Turkey.”

“Stability, democracy & safety of Turkish people are paramount. Unity & prudence are imperative,” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif wrote in a tweet.

Slovakia, which holds the rotating European Union presidency, said on Saturday it was following the events unfolding in Turkey with serious concern, and was coordinating appropriate reaction with EU partners.

“Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak has been in intensive contact all evening with EU high foreign affairs representative Federica Mogherini and other European colleagues,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“He has also been in contact with partners in the Turkish government with the aim to clarify the situation in Turkey and discuss steps that the EU should take with the aim to maintain and support democracy and stability in the country.”

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said she was “in constant contact with EU delegation in Ankara and Brussels from Mongolia.” She called for “restraint and respect for democratic institutions.”

The Kremlin said it was gravely concerned. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call that President Vladimir Putin was being kept constantly updated on the situation in Turkey.

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