- Explosion on busy pedestrian street injures 81
- Erdogan calls it a bomb, vows to punish perpetrators
- No one has claimed responsibility for the blast
- Turkish cities targeted in series of attacks in 2015-2016
ISTANBUL, Nov 13 (Reuters) – Six people were killed and 81 injured in an explosion on a busy pedestrian street in central Istanbul on Sunday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Bomb attack “smells like terrorism”.
Ambulances were called to the scene on crowded Istiklal Street, which was quickly cordoned off by police. The area, in the Beyoglu district of Turkey’s largest city, was packed with shoppers, tourists and families as usual on weekends.
Video footage obtained by Reuters showed the explosion at 4:13 pm (1313 GMT), sending debris flying into the air, leaving several people lying on the ground while others fled.
About four hours after the explosion, Vice President Fuat Oktay and Interior Minister Suleiman Soylu inspected the site of the blast.
Oktay put the number of injured at 81 and reiterated that six people were killed in the blast.
“We’ll fix that soon,” Oktay told reporters.
“Efforts to defeat Turkey and the Turkish people through terrorism will fail today, just like yesterday and tomorrow,” Erdogan said at a news conference in Istanbul.
“Our people can rest assured that the perpetrators behind the attacks will be punished as they should,” he said, adding that initial information indicated “a woman was involved”.
“It would be wrong to say that this was undoubtedly a terrorist attack, but initial developments and preliminary intelligence from my governor suggest it smells like terrorism,” he added.
No one has claimed responsibility for the explosion. Istanbul and other Turkish cities have been targeted by Kurdish separatists, Islamist militants and other groups in the past, including a series of attacks in 2015 and 2016.
Reuters footage showed people tending to victims after the blast before investigators in white collected material from the scene and fragments of concrete flower pots littered the street.
“When I heard the explosion, I was petrified and people froze and looked at each other. Then people started running. What else can you do,” said Mehmet Akus, 45, He is a restaurant worker in Istiklal.
“My relatives called me and they knew I was working in Istiklal. I assured them,” he told Reuters.
A helicopter flew over the scene and ambulances were parked in nearby Taksim Square. The Turkish Red Crescent said the blood was being diverted to a nearby hospital.
“We are assessing it as an act of terror,” Oktay said.
If confirmed, it would be the first major bomb blast in Istanbul in several years.
In December 2016, 38 people were killed and 155 injured in twin bombings outside an Istanbul football stadium, an attack claimed by an affiliate of the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the United States .
Condemnation of the attack and condolences to the victims poured in from Greece, Egypt, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, Azerbaijan, Italy and Pakistan.
European Council President Charles Michel tweeted his condolences to the victims following the “terrible news”.
Additional reporting by Azra Ceylan, writing by Jonathan Spicer; editing by Gareth Jones and Jane Merriman
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