At least six dead and 81 injured

At least six people were killed in a bomb attack in Istanbul on Sunday afternoon. More than 80 people were injured. The background is still unclear.

Several people were killed in the attack on Sunday afternoon.

Francisco Seco / AP

What we know:

  • A bomb exploded in Istanbul on Sunday afternoon. At least six people were killed in the attack. More than 80 people were injured.
  • The police arrested the suspected perpetrator. Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said this on Monday morning. According to police, more than 45 people have been arrested so far.
  • According to the police, the alleged bomber is from Syria. During the initial interrogation, she stated that she was trained there by Kurdish fighters.

What is still unclear:

  • Nothing is known about the exact background of the crime. The Turkish government assumes a terrorist attack. According to the government, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is behind it.

Crowds thronged Istanbul’s most popular shopping street, Istiklal, on Sunday afternoon when a powerful explosion occurred around 4:20 p.m. local time. Mobile phone videos on social media show a cloud of fire in the middle of a shopping street and passers-by fleeing in panic. Other videos show a large crater surrounded by bloodied bodies and baby carriages. Many ambulances and fire engines went to the scene of the crime, helicopters circled over the city center.

According to official figures, at least six people were killed and at least 81 were injured, two of them seriously. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the explosion on Sunday night a “sneaky attack” that “smells of terror” according to investigations so far. It is currently unclear who the perpetrators are. Police have arrested a woman who they say planted and detonated a bomb under a bank on a shopping street.

In a busy shopping street after the explosion, the police are looking for clues to the perpetrators.

In a busy shopping street after the explosion, the police are looking for clues to the perpetrators.

Kemal Aslan / Reuters

Security camera video shows a passerby placing a package under a bench shortly before the explosion. Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said in a television interview that a bomb exploded next to the bank after the woman had been sitting there for about forty minutes. Bozdag also said that the bomb probably contained nails to increase the effect of the explosion.

State broadcaster TRT released footage showing police escorting a woman, the prime suspect, out of an apartment following a late-night raid. The woman is Syrian and has links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Syrian-Kurdish YPG militia, which Ankara believes is a wing of the PKK. During initial questioning, the woman said she had been trained by Kurdish fighters in Syria.

According to Soyl, the order for the attack came from the Kurdish-dominated city of Kobane in northern Syria. He promised revenge. According to their own statements, the police have so far arrested 46 people in connection with the attack.

Popular shopping street

Istiklal shopping street is very popular with locals and tourists alike. Many European embassies are based here and there is usually an enormous police presence. On Sundays, there were also many football fans walking here who wanted to attend a match at the nearby Besiktas stadium in the evening. The game was canceled after the explosion for safety reasons, and a large area of ​​the city center was cordoned off.

Already in March 2016, a bomb exploded on the promenade, killing four foreign tourists and a Turkish suicide bomber. In the same year, there were a number of other terrorist attacks in Istanbul. Most were carried out by the Islamic State (IS) terrorist militia, but some were also carried out by the PKK-linked Kurdish terrorist organization Freedom Falcons of Kurdistan (TAK). In the following years, many tourists stayed outside the metropolis.

This year, the industry recovered and Istanbul experienced a tourism boom with more than 11 million visitors in the first nine months. It is not yet clear whether foreigners are among the victims this time.

A woman looks out from a shop after an explosion hit a busy pedestrian zone on Istiklal Street in Istanbul.

A woman looks out from a shop after an explosion hit a busy pedestrian zone on Istiklal Street in Istanbul.

Kemal Aslan / Reuters

Temporary news blackout for Turkish media

The Turkish Broadcasting Authority imposed a temporary blackout on reports of the explosion on Sunday evening; allegedly to prevent fear and panic among the population. Most television stations then stopped reporting from the scene of the crime. Opposition media reported that the police had banned them from filming in the city center without express permission. At least state broadcaster TRT later resumed coverage.

Social networks such as Twitter and Instagram were only accessible to a limited extent in the evening. At the same time, an investigation was launched against some social media users who spread “negative news” about the event. In recent years, Turkish authorities have often blocked news following attacks, making independent reporting of the events difficult.

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