Six dead in Istanbul blast, Erdogan says it ‘smells like terrorism’

  • An explosion in a busy pedestrian alley injured 81
  • Erdogan calls it a bomb, promising to punish the perpetrators
  • No one has claimed responsibility for the explosion
  • For cities in 2015-2016 several attacks were carried out

ISTANBUL, November 13 (Reuters). A blast rocked a busy pedestrian street in central Istanbul on Sunday, killing six people and injuring 81 others.

Hundreds of people fled the historic Istiklal Avenue after the blast, as ambulances and police rushed in. The Beyoğlu district of Turkey’s largest city was packed with shoppers, tourists and families as usual over the weekend.

Video footage obtained by Reuters showed the moment the blast went off at 4:13 p.m. (1313 GMT), sending debris into the air and leaving several people lying on the ground and others stumbling away.

Hours after the blast, Vice President Fuat Oktay visited the site to provide an update on the dead and injured and promised to resolve the matter “very soon”.

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Authorities later announced that a government ministry employee and his daughter were among the dead. Five people were in intensive care at the hospital, two of whom are in critical condition.

No one has claimed responsibility for the explosion.

Istanbul and other Turkish cities have been targeted by Kurdish separatists, Islamist militants and other groups in the past, including in several attacks in 2015 and 2016.

“Attempts to defeat Turkey and the Turkish people through terrorism will fail today as they did yesterday and tomorrow,” Erdogan told a news conference before flying to Indonesia to attend a summit of the Group of 20 leading economies.

“Our people can be sure that the perpetrators … will be punished as they deserve,” he said, adding that preliminary information indicated that “a woman played a role.”

“It would be wrong to say that this is definitely a terrorist attack, but the initial developments and my governor’s initial intelligence indicate that it smacks of terrorism,” he added.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag was quoted by the state-run Anadolu Agency as saying that a woman had been sitting on a bench for more than 40 minutes before leaving, suggesting that the blast was planned or detonated from afar.

‘PEOPLE GET IN’

Reuters footage showed people tending to victims after the blast, while white-coated investigators later collected material from the scene, where chunks of concrete planting material were strewn across the avenue lined with shops and restaurants.

“When I heard the explosion, I was petrified, people froze, looking at each other. Then people started running. What else to do,” said Mehmet Akus, 45, a restaurant worker in Istiklal.

“Relatives called me, they know I work in Istiklal. I reassured them,” he told Reuters.

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A helicopter flew over the scene and several ambulances were stationed in nearby Taksim Square. The Turkish Red Crescent said the blood had been donated to nearby hospitals.

If confirmed, it would be the first major explosion in Istanbul in several years.

Twin bombings outside an Istanbul football stadium in December 2016, claimed by an offshoot of the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and the United States, killed 38 people and injured 155 others.

Condemnation of the attack and condolences to the victims were expressed by several countries, including Greece, Egypt, Ukraine, Great Britain, Azerbaijan, Italy and Pakistan.

European Council President Charles Michel tweeted his condolences to the victims following the “appalling news”.

Writing and additional reporting by Jonathan Spicer; Edited by Gareth Jones and Jane Merriman

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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