At least six dead and 81 injured

An explosion rocked the metropolis on the Bosphorus on Sunday afternoon. At least six people are believed to have died and more than 80 were injured. The background is still unclear.

Several people were killed in the explosion on Sunday afternoon.

Francisco Seco / AP

What we know:

  • At least six people were killed in an explosion in Istanbul on Sunday afternoon. At least 81 other people were injured.
  • The police arrested the suspected perpetrator. Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said this early Monday morning. In addition, 21 people were arrested.
  • According to Soyl, the alleged bomber has links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the PKK. The PKK is on terrorist lists in Turkey, Europe and the US and has positions in southeastern Turkey and northern Iraq.

What is still unclear:

  • Nothing is known about the exact background of the crime. The Turkish government assumes a terrorist attack.

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 huge 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 exactly the perpetrators are. Police have arrested a woman who they say planted and detonated a bomb under a bank on a shopping street.

After the explosion, the police gather for clues.

After the explosion, the police gather for clues.

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.

On Monday evening, state broadcaster TRT reported, citing Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, that police had arrested the suspect. Emergency services arrested the person who planted the bomb on the Istiklal shopping street. There are links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the PKK. According to the latest findings, the order to attack came from their headquarters in northern Syria, according to Soylu. According to TRT, the Minister of the Interior announced retaliation. Police also arrested 21 other people.

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 IS terrorist militia, but some were also carried out by the PKK-linked Kurdish terrorist organization 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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