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Suicide bomb attack in Istanbul kills 5, at least 20 wounded

Turkey, which has been rocked by five major bombings since July, had been on high alert for further attacks ahead of Kurdish New Year celebrations on Monday.

world Updated: Mar 19, 2016 18:57 IST
Suicide attack in Istanbul,Turkey
Police secure the area following a suicide bombing in a major shopping and tourist district in central Istanbul March 19, 2016.(REUTERS)

A suicide attacker detonated a bomb on Istanbul’s main pedestrian shopping street today, killing five people, the city’s governor said. Twenty other people were injured in the attack. The attacker was among the dead.

Governor Vasip Sahin said the explosion occurred outside a local government office on Istiklal Street, which is also home to cafes, restaurants and foreign consulate buildings. Sahin said one of wounded victims died in hospital. The private Dogan news agency said at least three of the injured are Israeli nationals.

Police sealed off the area and a forensic team was at the scene.

Turkey was already on edge following two recent suicide car bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, which were claimed by a Kurdish militant group, which is an off-shoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. The most recent attack, on March 13, targeted a line of bus stops on Ankara’s busiest street and killed 37 including two bombers.

“It was one loud explosion,” said Muhammed Fatur, a Syrian who works at a butcher shop near the scene of today’s explosion. “Police came to the scene and sealed off the area.”

The street, which adjoins Taksim Square in the European part of the city, was evacuated after the attack, an AFP journalist at the scene said. Armed police sealed off the area while a police helicopter hovered overhead.

CTV footage published online by Dogan news agency appeared to show the moment of the blast with a fireball erupting near a handful of passersby, sending them rushing for cover.

Television images showed several ambulances ferrying the injured to hospital.

Turkey, which has been rocked by five major bombings since July, had been on high alert for further attacks ahead of Kurdish New Year celebrations on Monday.

A Kurdish rebel group, the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), claimed responsibility for an attack on March 13 on a busy transport hub in Ankara that killed 35 people.

Read | Suspected Ankara bomber was female PKK member: Turkey officials

TAK, which also claimed a similar car bombing in Ankara in mid February that killed 29 people, has ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) against which the Turkish army is waging a major military campaign.

A court in Ankara on Friday evening remanded five people in custody on suspicion of links to last week’s attack in the capital which was carried out by a 24-year-old female student named by TAK as Seher Cagla Demir.

In a statement, TAK said the bombing aimed to avenge Kurds killed during a ongoing military offensive against the PKK in the majority Kurdish southeast and said it had not meant to target civilians.

On Friday, Turkish airforce planes continued to bomb PKK hideouts in mountains across the border in northern Iraq, an army statement said.

During the week, the US embassy in Ankara had issued a warning to its citizens in Turkey to exercise caution ahead of the Kurdish Nevruz (New Year) celebrations, which have been a flashpoint for pro-Kurdish demonstrations in the past.

The Islamic State jihadist group was blamed for three other large-scale attacks in recent months, including a suicide attack in January in Istanbul in which 12 German tourists were killed and an attack on a peace rally in Ankara in October that claimed 103 lives.

First Published: Mar 19, 2016 15:48 IST