ISTANBUL (AP) — Authorities suspected the Islamic State group was behind an apparent suicide bombing Monday in southeastern Turkey that killed 31 people and wounded nearly 100 — a development that could represent a major expansion by the extremists at a time when the government is stepping up efforts against them.
Turkish officials vowed to strike back at those behind the attack in the city of Suruc targeting a group of political activists who wanted to help the shattered Syrian city of Kobani, a bombing that turned a moment of hope into a scene of horror.
“We are face to face with a terrorism incident,” Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said. “We have the willpower to find and certainly punish those who are responsible.”
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but a senior government official told The Associated Press that Turkey suspected the IS group was behind the blast as retaliation for Turkey’s steps against the militants.
The midday explosion took place as the Federation of Socialist Youths was wrapping up a news conference on plans to help rebuild Kobani, a witness said.
Suruc is just across the border from Kobani, the town that was the site of fierce battles between Kurdish groups and Islamic State fighters.
The fall of Kobani, heavily populated by Syrian Kurds, was the biggest defeat last year for the militants since they established control over large parts of Iraq and Syria. Its ruins have become a symbol of Kurdish resistance.
If IS was indeed behind the bombing, it would represent the group’s most serious attack inside Turkey. A female suicide bomber with suspected ties to IS blew herself up in a tourist district of Istanbul in January, killing a police officer and wounding another.
In recent weeks, Turkey has taken new steps against IS, blocking websites and arresting suspected followers in the country, officials said.
Witnesses of Monday’s blast described scenes of carnage and shock. Because the activists’ news conference was being recorded, the attack and its immediate aftermath were captured in widely circulated video.
Fatma Edemen said the federation of about 200 youths had been pressing for more access to Kobani to help with reconstruction.
The group was chanting “Long live the resistance of Kobani!” when the explosion tore through the crowd, she said.
“One of my friends protected me. First I thought, ‘I am dying,’ but I was OK,” the 22-year-old Edemen told the AP by phone as she headed to the hospital to get treatment for minor injuries to her legs. “I started to run after I saw the bodies.”
Her voice shaking, she said her group had believed it was relatively safe to rebuild Kobani.
“Our friends went there, and it didn’t seem dangerous at that time. We couldn’t even think something like that would happen,” she said, adding that they had hoped to build a kindergarten or something else for children in the devastated city.
“We wanted to do something, but they would not let us,” she added.
IS militants carried out surprise attacks in Kobani last month that killed more than 200 people.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was 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,” Erdogan said in a news conference broadcast on Turkish television.
In a statement on Twitter, Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan said such “despicable terrorist attacks” would never achieve their goal.
The United States strongly condemned the attack, noting that many of the victims had stepped forward to help reconstruction efforts in Kobani.
“We express our solidarity with the Turkish government and the Turkish people and reaffirm our undeterred resolve to fight against the sheer threat of terrorism,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.
The casualty figures were released by the prime minister’s office and the Interior Ministry.
The senior Turkish official said authorities had evidence that the attack was a suicide bombing. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record.
Another explosion Monday south of Kobani killed three Kurdish officials and occurred as the militiamen were removing mortar shells from a dump, said Mustafa Bali, a Kurdish official. Another Kurdish official had initially described the blast as a bomb.
Suruc also is the site of the largest refugee camp in Turkey. Nearly 2 million Syrians have crossed into the country to flee the fighting.
More than 220,000 Syrians have been killed and at least 1 million wounded since the country’s crisis began in March 2011, according to the United Nations.
Associated Press writers Bassem Mroue in Beirut, Lori Hinnant in Paris and Ayse Wieting and Mohammed Rasool in Istanbul contributed to this report.
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A former lottery security official has been found guilty of fraud for rigging a Hot Lotto game so he could win a $14 million jackpot.
An Iowa jury on Monday convicted 52-year-old Eddie Tipton, of Norwalk. He faces up to five years in prison on each of the two counts when sentenced in September. Tipton’s lawyer says he’ll appeal.
Tipton denied being involved, saying he wasn’t even in Iowa on Dec. 23, 2010, when someone bought the winning ticket at a Des Moines area convenience store. His attorney says store surveillance video was too fuzzy to identify the buyer.
Prosecutors argued Tipton had access to the room housing the computer that picked Hot Lotto numbers and lied about being out of state.
Tipton was never awarded the money.
In a simpler time, all a child or an adult needed to enjoy the outdoors was a ball and a stick. Or maybe an old tire tied to a high branch to fashion a swing. And the only instruction given to children was to be home before dark.
Now there are iPads and computers and television screens and shrinking safe public spaces. But despite the distractions and limitations of space, these images show that the charm of kicking a ball or skipping rope endures.
Sometimes with modifications as a nod to changing times.
Little girls in towns and villages in South Africa still play Diketo — skipping and scooping a handful of pebbles inside a circle marked on the ground. Once it was a game young girls played by the river as they fetched water, but now even little girls in Johannesburg can be spotted tossing tiny pebbles.
Through the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, Iraqi Kurdish men still played the traditional game of Klawane — with one image showing them hunting for a ring hidden underneath a collection of hats. The game is played after Iftar, the evening meal that ends the day’s fasting.
Some sports were lost for a while but are fashionable once again, such as in Spain, where little children are spinning tops again.
For every game lost there are new ones, some inspired by video and online games. In Beijing, groups of young people, armed with water guns, are dividing into teams of aliens, zombies and humans.
And yet the charm of the simple things continues to endure.
From Cape Town in South Africa to Tbilisi, Georgia, children still play the games that entertained their parents: hide-and-seek, chasing a used tire down a side street or careening down the road in a little go-kart fashioned out of wooden and plastic containers.
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Knocked off his board by an attacking shark, three-time world champion Mick Fanning punched the creature before escaping unharmed during the televised finals of a world surfing competition in South Africa on Sunday.
The Australian surfer was struck by the shark from behind and knocked into the water as he sat on his board waiting his turn during the JBay Open in Jeffrey’s Bay in the Eastern Cape Province.
As he scans the water, two fins appear and with a splash he disappears under the surface. He is next seen furiously trying to swim to safety before a rescuer pulls him out of the water.
“A big sigh of relief seeing Fanning in one piece,” a commentator is heard saying, on the video of the event posted on the World Surf League website.
“I felt something grab, get stuck in my leg rope and instantly jump away. And it just kept coming at my board,” Fanning said, once safe on the rescue boat.
Fanning said at first he swam away but then decided to defend himself and turned to punch the shark in the back.
“I saw it taking my board away and I just started cracking it,” he told a crowd that gathered around him once he was back on shore, referring to how he struck the shark.
“I’m totally fine. I’ve got nothing wrong with me,” Fanning said in an interview. “There’s a small depression in my board and my leg wrap (was) bitten. I’m just totally tripping out. To walk away from that, I’m just so stoked. Oh man.”
Fanning’s mother, Elizabeth Osborne, who watched the incident live on television in Australia, wept as she told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio the attack was “the worst thing I’ve ever seen happen to any of my family because it was just there in front of me.”
“It was absolutely terrifying. I actually got up and walked across to the television because I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing and I thought we lost him,” she said in an ABC TV interview. “I went over to the television almost as though I could pull him out of the television. I just wanted to save him really, but there was nothing I could do.”
Osborne said she believes Fanning’s brother Sean, who died in a car accident 17 years ago, was watching over his sibling.
Surfing great Kelly Slater said he was coming up the beach when he saw all the boats and skis heading toward the surfers.
“I knew there was only one possible reason that would ever happen in a contest and that’s if someone got attacked by a shark,” Slater was quoted as saying. “I’m halfway between crying and laughing because he got so lucky. I’m lost for words to be honest.”
The World Surf League cancelled the remainder of the event and Fanning will split the prize money with fellow Australian surfer Julian Wilson, who was also in the water when the attack happened. The two will share second place.
“We are incredibly grateful that no one was seriously injured today,” the league said in a statement. “Mick’s composure and quick acting in the face of a terrifying situation was nothing short of heroic.”
Commentator Ross Williams said there are occasionally shark sightings in and around events but an actual attack was very unusual.
“For it to happen in that fashion during the finals, where it actually showed that crazy aggression toward Mick Fanning, such a crazy thing,” he said on the video.
The website for the World Surf League is www.worldsurfleague.com
WASHINGTON (AP) — With space shuttles now housed in history museums, innovators in aerospace are thinking of newer, better ways humans could reach space. One idea: What about a space elevator?
This real idea is one simulation that’s part of a new high-tech interactive exhibition about the future of flight opening Aug. 1 at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. The exhibit also will serve as an important test case for new technologies to overhaul the popular museum with more interactives.
Designers at Evergreen Exhibitions in San Antonio, Texas, have been developing the new exhibition “Above and Beyond: The Ultimate Interactive Flight Exhibition” with Boeing, NASA and the Smithsonian to explore new innovations and ideas. It uses immersive videos, simulations, virtual reality, touch-tables and a 180-degree theater experience to create a hands-on, immersive experience. Curators said it is more interactive technology than the Smithsonian has ever had in an aerospace exhibit.
“Above and Beyond” will debut at one of the nation’s most popular museums. The National Air and Space Museum draws nearly 7 million visitors each year on the National Mall. The exhibit runs until early January and then begins a worldwide tour through 2020. Stops will include museums in Dubai; St. Louis; Charleston, South Carolina; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; London, Tokyo and Chicago.
One exhibit capsule will simulate the idea of a space elevator with video screens surrounding visitors to give them the feel of rising above Earth. Researchers are developing such an idea to see if it’s possible to create a real capsule that could crawl up a cord from the ground to the level of orbiting the Earth.
The Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum is planning to overhaul all of its exhibit galleries in the coming years, and the temporary exhibit will help the museum test what works. Some current galleries date back to the museum’s opening in 1976. The museum has mostly shied away from integrating much technology into its exhibits because the galleries receive heavy traffic, and technology tends to break down, said Roger Launius, the museum’s associate director of collections and curatorial affairs.
“In the future as we’re re-envisioning the museum, we’re putting more and more of these kinds of things in, but this is sort of taking us to a level we haven’t had,” Launius said. “One of the things we want to do is kind of test the technologies.”
Beyond the gee-whiz technology, the exhibit is rooted in the themes of how to fly higher, farther, faster and smarter to challenge visitors with the real problems of how to make space flight more efficient and less expensive, Launius said.
Curators planning the museum’s overhaul are also looking at how to use new technology to give visitors a better look at space history. The museum is considering a future simulation that could recreate what it was like to land on the moon during the Apollo era.
John Tracy, the chief technology officer for Boeing, which is funding the “Above and Beyond” exhibit and part of the museum’s overhaul, said the company wants to work with the museum to inspire the next generation of innovators.
“The aerospace workforce in general has a large demographic of baby boomers,” he said. “As they begin to retire, we need to make sure there’s a generation prepared to take over.”
Above and Beyond Exhibition: http://aboveandbeyondexhibition.com/
Follow Brett Zongker on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DCArtBeat.
BEIRUT (AP) — A U.S.-led coalition dropped new leaflets over the de facto capital of the Islamic State group in Syria, promising those below that “freedom will come” to the region, activists said Sunday.
An anti-Islamic State group called Raqqa is Being Silently Slaughtered and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the leaflets had drawings showing dead extremists and their flag turned upside down. Four fighters with the main Kurdish militia, the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, walked down a street in the picture, with two words in Arabic below translated as “Freedom will come.”
The latest leaflet drop comes as YPG fighters have been advancing in northern Syria as close as 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of Raqqa.
Coalition warplanes have dropped such leaflets in the past. A previous one had a cartoon showing masked Islamic State extremists at a “hiring office” feeding people into a meat grinder.
Also Sunday, the extremists gave Internet cafes in Raqaa four days to stop offering wireless Internet connections to nearby homes, the Observatory and Raqqa is Being Silently Slaughtered said. The move comes two weeks after extremists released a video purporting to show the killing of two Syrian men in Raqqa, allegedly for spying.
The Islamic State group holds about a third of Syria and neighboring Iraq in its self-declared “caliphate.”
On Friday, a truck bombing by the group in Iraq’s eastern Diyala province killed 115 people at a crowded market. Authorities there have fired the local police chief and three officers, while two others are being investigated, said senior Iraqi police officials speaking on condition of anonymity Sunday as they weren’t authorized to talk to journalists.
Meanwhile in Iraq on Sunday, a series of bombings killed at least eight people and wounded about two dozen others.
In Diyala on Sunday, a roadside bomb killed four people and wounded nine near the Diyala Bridge, southeast of the capital, police said.
In al-Ameen, a district in east Baghdad, police said two people were killed and eight wounded when a roadside bomb detonated near a busy cafe, police said. And in the Baghdad suburb of Nahrawan, two people were killed and six wounded when a bomb exploded on a busy commercial street.
Hospital officials corroborated the deaths. All spoke on the condition of anonymity as they are not authorized to brief journalists.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the Islamic State militant group often is behind such attacks in and around the capital as it seeks to destabilize Iraq’s Shiite-led government.
Associated Press writer Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad contributed to this report.