Istanbul Tourist District Hit by Deadly Blast

Turkish President Erdogan says “Syria-linked bomber” behind explosion which killed 10 at city’s Sultanahmet Square

At least 10 people have been killed in an explosion at central Istanbul’s historic Sultanahmet Square, the city governor’s office said.

The explosion occurred at about 10.20am local time on Tuesday morning, hitting an area popular with both tourists and locals. In a statement, the Istanbul governor’s office said 10 people were killed and 15 were injured.

Al Jazeera has learned that most of those who were killed were foreigners. Meanwhile, at least two of those injured are in “critical condition”.

“Investigations into the cause of the explosion, the type of explosion and perpetrator or perpetrators are under way,” the governor’s office said in a statement quoted by the Dogan news agency.

Turkey explosion: Deadly blast strikes Istanbul tourist district

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed that foreign tourists were among the casualties.

He said during a speech in Ankara that a Syria-linked suicide bomber was believed to be behind the blast.

“I strongly condemn the terror attack which was carried out by a suicide bomber of Syrian origin,” Erdogan said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has convened an emergency security meeting of key ministers and officials.

Following the explosion, ambulances rushed to the site.

Police cordoned off the area to protect people against the possibility of a second explosion.

Al Jazeera’s Emre Rende, reporting from Istanbul, said information was scarce immediately after the blast.

“Witnesses have said that the blast was heard from other neighbourhoods,” he said. “Witnesses said that the ground shook.”

Rende said police were conducting searches outside the cordoned-off area in case a second bomber was involved.

Erdem Koroglu, who was working at a nearby office at the time of the explosion, told NTV television that he saw several people lying on the ground following the blast.

“It was difficult to say who was alive or dead,” Koroglu said. “Buildings rattled from the force of the explosion.”

The square sits next to the most popular tourist sites in the city, including the 6th century Greek Orthodox church, the centuries-old Sultan Ahmet mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque, and the Roman-era Basilica Cistern, an ancient underground water depot.

The blast comes just over a year after a female suicide bomber blew herself up at a police station for tourists off the same square, killing one officer and wounding another.

Turkey has become a target for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), with two bombings last year blamed on the armed group, in the town of Suruc near the Syrian border and in the capital Ankara. The latter killed more than 100 people.

Violence has also escalated in the mainly Kurdish southeast since a two-year ceasefire collapsed in July between the state and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) armed group, which has been fighting for three decades for Kurdish autonomy.

 

Reprinted with permission from Al Jazeera

Posted By: Keith

Writer, political junkie, rabid rock music fan, amateur gardener, astronomer and ornithologist, cook extraordinaire, sipper of fine wine and, more than once, the funniest guy in the room.

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