Female suicide bomber attacks Istanbul tourist hub, kills policeman

A police officer stands guard along a street leading to a police station where a female suicide bomber was killed on Jan 6, 2015. A female suicide bomber on Tuesday blew herself up in the most-visited tourist district of Istanbul, killing hersel
A police officer stands guard along a street leading to a police station where a female suicide bomber was killed on Jan 6, 2015. A female suicide bomber on Tuesday blew herself up in the most-visited tourist district of Istanbul, killing herself and a Turkish policeman, officials said. -- PHOTO: AFP

ISTANBUL (AFP) - A female suicide bomber on Tuesday blew herself up in the most-visited tourist district of Istanbul, killing herself and a Turkish policeman, officials said.

The woman went into the police station in the Sultanahmet district and told the police in English she had lost her wallet before setting off her explosives, governor Vasip Sahin said on Turkish television.

One policeman was badly wounded and died of his wounds in hospital, the official Anatolia news agency reported.

A second policeman was lightly wounded.

Both were staffing a tourist police post intended to assist tourists with questions and problems.

“She approached the police at around 5pm , saying in English: ‘I have lost my wallet’. That’s all I can say. We are trying to identify the attacker,” said Sahin.

“The female bomber lost her life. She has staged the attack by detonating the bomb on her.”

The Sultanahmet district, which is the home of world famous attractions including the Blue Mosque and Aga Sophia museum, is visited by thousands of Turkish and foreign tourists every day.

Emergency services rushed to the scene and the city tram line that goes through the district was halted.

Officials said there was so far no indication of the nationality or identity of the female suicide bomber.

'HEINOUS ATTACK'

Turkish news reports said two more explosive charges had been found on the corpse of the suicide bomber.

They were blown up in a controlled explosion by bomb experts, shattering nearby windows.

In the first government reaction to the attack, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus condemned the strike as a “heinous terror attack”.

“The target of this attacks is the new Turkey, our beloved nation. But they won’t succeed. They won’t be able to destroy our brotherhood and unity,” he wrote on Twitter.

The attack came five days after a member of an outlawed Marxist group attacked police on guard outside the Ottoman-era Dolmabahce palace in Istanbul on the Bosphorus.

The man, named as Firat Ozcelik, hurled two grenades at the police honour guard on duty outside the palace but they failed to explode.

The Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) said it was behind the attack outside the palace, which houses the Istanbul offices of the Turkish prime minister.

The DHKP-C – a radical Marxist organisation considered a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and the United States – has over recent years carried out a string of sporadic and sometimes deadly attacks in Turkey and abroad.

It claimed a suicide bombing in February 2013 at the US embassy in Ankara where a security guard was killed.

Turkey is on a high security alert amid the crises in neighbouring Syria and Iraq, where Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants have seized swathes of territory on the Turkish border.

Western countries have accused Turkey of not doing enough to stem the flow of militants through its borders but Ankara insists it has now stepped up frontier security.

Istanbul has been the scene of several bomb attacks in recent years, most notably the November 2003 attacks on two synagogues, the British consulate and a bank that left dozens dead.