Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende sent official condolences Sunday night to the people of Turkey and the Ivory Coast after attacks by gunmen and, in Ankara, by a suicide bomber. Brende condemned the attacks that left scores dead and severely injured.
First came news of the attack on tourist hotels in the Ivory Coast’s beachside city of Grand Bassam. Both local residents and foreign visitors were among those killed and wounded by masked gunmen who randomly shot people on the beach, at the pool and around the hotel.
Norwegian Richard Skretteberg, who is in the Ivory Coast working for the refugee aid organization Flyktninghjelpen, was eating lunch at a local restaurant when he heard shots being fired. “Suddenly everyone on the beach got up and started running in panic,” Skretteberg told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on the phone from Grand Bassam. He and many others dove under tables and tried to hide from gunmen. He said the attack occurred in an area where many local residents go for Sunday excursions from nearby Abidjan.
The attack in Grand Bassam was followed by a car bombing in central Ankara that left at least 34 dead and more than a 100 injured, some of them critically. The bombing occurred on a warm spring evening near the Guven Park and an exit from the city’s metro system.
“Ankara has again been hit by a bomb that has claimed many human lives and injured even more,” Brende said in a statement released by the foreign ministry Sunday night. “Our thoughts and sympathy go to the Turkish people and all affected by this terrible incident.”
Brende said it was too early to say who was behind the bombing, “but such terrorist acts must be condemned in the strongest of terms.”
News bureau Reuters reported that Turkish authorities were pointing towards the banned Kurdish workers’ party PKK as being behind the attack. The Kurdish democratic people’s party HDP, meanwhile, issued a statement saying it condemned the attack and that its members shared the pain of the attack with the rest of Turkish society.
Turkey’s authoritarian government reportedly responded to the attack by once again blocking the use of social media services after photos from the attack were spread via Facebook and Twitter. Several users were reporting problems logging in to the services. Such bans on freedom of expression have earlier been criticized by, among others, the Norwegian head of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland. He said in Oslo last week that the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has ruled that such crackdowns on social media are unconstitutional, and they were later lifte.