Suspect arrested in Istanbul explosion that left 6 dead, 81 injured

Police and emergency service members cordon off the area after an explosion on Istiklal street in Istanbul. PHOTO: REUTERS
Six people were killed and 81 others wounded on Sunday after the explosion. PHOTO: REUTERS
People react as Turkish policemen try to secure the area after an explosion at Istiklal Street in Istanbul, on Nov 13, 2022. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
People running after an explosion on Istiklal street in Istanbul, Turkey, on Nov 13, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS
Turkish policemen guard the area after an explosion at Istiklal Street, in Istanbul, on Nov 13, 2022. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Turkish authorities at a street near Taksim Square, one of the city’s busiest areas, after an explosion in Istanbul on Nov 13. PHOTO:NYTIMES
Crime scene investigation police work as Turkish policemen secure the area after a strong explosion in Istiklal, Istanbul. PHOTO: AFP

ISTANBUL - The person who left the bomb that caused Istanbul’s explosion was arrested by the police, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said on Monday according to state-run Anadolu agency’s English-language Twitter account.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag was earlier quoted by Anadolu as saying a woman had sat on a bench for more than 40 minutes before leaving minutes before the blast, suggesting a bomb that was timed to explode or was detonated from afar.

Six people were killed and 81 others wounded on Sunday when an explosion rocked a busy pedestrian street in Istiklal Avenue in central Istanbul in what Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan called a bomb attack that “smells like terrorism”.

Hundreds of people fled the historic Istiklal Avenue after the blast, as ambulances and police raced in. The area, in the Beyoglu district of Turkey’s largest city, had been crowded as usual at the weekend with shoppers, tourists and families. 

Video footage obtained by Reuters showed the moment the explosion occurred at 4.13pm (9.13pm Singapore time), sending debris into the air and leaving several people lying on the ground, while others stumbled away. 

Hours after the explosion, Vice-President Fuat Oktay visited the site to give the latest death and injury toll, and promised to resolve the matter “very soon”. 

Authorities later said a government ministry worker and his daughter were among the dead. Five people were in intensive care in hospital, two of them in a critical condition. Nobody has claimed responsibility for the blast. 

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Istanbul and other Turkish cities have been targeted in the past by Kurdish separatists, Islamist militants and other groups, including in a series of attacks in 2015 and 2016. 

“Efforts to defeat Turkey and the Turkish people through terrorism will fail today just as they did yesterday and as they will tomorrow,” Erdogan told a news conference before flying to Indonesia for a summit of the Group of 20 leading economies. 

“Our people can rest assured that the culprits... will be punished as they deserve,” he said, adding that initial information suggested “a woman played a part” in it. 

“It would be wrong to say this is undoubtedly a terrorist attack but the initial developments and initial intelligence from my governor is that it smells like terrorism,” he added. 

‘People froze’

Reuters footage showed people attending to victims after the blast, and later investigators in white outfits collecting material from the scene, where pieces of a concrete planter were scattered on the avenue, which is lined with shops and restaurants.

“When I heard the explosion, I was petrified, people froze, looking at each other. Then people started running away. What else can you do,” said Mehmet Akus, 45, a restaurant worker on Istiklal.

“My relatives called me, they know I work on Istiklal. I reassured them,” he told Reuters.

A helicopter flew above the scene and a number of ambulances were parked in nearby Taksim Square. The Turkish Red Crescent said blood was transferred to nearby hospitals.

People run away as Turkish policemen try to secure the area after an explosion at Istiklal Street in Istanbul. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

If confirmed, it would be the first major bomb blast in Istanbul in several years.

Twin bombings outside an Istanbul soccer stadium in December 2016 killed 38 people and wounded 155 in an attack claimed by an offshoot of the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.

Condemnations of the attack and condolences for the victims rolled in from several countries including Greece, Egypt, Ukraine, Britain, Azerbaijan, Italy and Pakistan.

On Twitter, European Council President Charles Michel sent condolences to victims after the “horrific news”. REUTERS

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