A suicide attacker detonated a bomb on a major shopping and tourist district in central Istanbul on Saturday killing five people and wounding 36 others, the city’s governor said. The assailant died in the attack, which is the fourth apparent suicide bombing to hit Turkey this year.
The explosion targeted Istiklal Street, a wide boulevard that is home to restaurants, shopping centers and foreign consulate buildings, just a few hundred meters from an area where police buses are usually parked, Governor Vasip Sahin said.
Health Minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu confirmed that 36 people had been wounded and seven of those were in serious condition. Twelve of the wounded were foreigners, he said. The private Dogan news agency said at least three of the injured are Israeli nationals.
“We as a nation are unfortunately now face to face with a situation of unlimited, immeasurable acts that are inhumane, defy human values and are treacherous,” Muezzinoglu said.
Armed police sealed off the main shopping street where half a dozen ambulances had gathered. Forensic teams in white suits were scouring the scene for evidence.
A senior Turkish official said initial findings indicate Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) or affiliate have carried out the attack.
The suicide attacker had planned to hit a more crowded spot at a different time, but he detonated the bomb “out of fear” after being deterred from original target by police, he added.
“It was one loud explosion,” said Muhammed Fatur, a Syrian who works at a butcher shop near the scene of Saturday’s explosion. “Police came to the scene and sealed off the area.”
After a series of deadly bomb blasts, Istiklal Street was quieter than usual. People are more precautious and are avoiding going out.
A suicide car bombing in the capital Ankara killed 37 people this month. A similar bombing in Ankara last month killed 29 people. A Kurdish militant group has claimed responsibility for both of those bombings.
In January, a suicide bomber killed around 10 people, most of them German tourists, in Istanbul’s historic heart, an attack the government blamed on ISIS terrorist group.
Turkey had heightened security in Ankara and Istanbul with the Kurdish spring festival of Newroz on March 21 approaching. Kurds in Turkey traditionally use to stress their ethnic identity and demand greater rights.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said at a joint news conference on Saturday that the country’s fight against terrorism would continue with full force.
France’s foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault condemned in a statement on Saturday the suicide bomb attack, saying: “I strongly condemn this despicable and cowardly act that has caused the death of several people”, adding that Paris stood in solidarity with Turkey.