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Suicide blast in Istanbul

Turkey, Istanbul
19.03.2016
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Turkey on edge: 5 killed, 36 wounded as suicide blasts rocks Istanbul
A suicide bombing on Istanbul's main shopping street on Saturday killed five people, including the assailant, as Turkey reels from the second such attack this week, the latest blast hitting an area popular with tourists.
GALLERY
Istanbul (dpa) - Among the injured in the blast in Turkey‘s largest city and economic hub were 24 foreigners, the local government‘s office said.
Workers check the overhead power lines for a streetcar as people gather near by the scene of a bomb explosion in the downtown Istiklal Street earlier the same day, in Istanbul, Turkey, 19 March 2016. The suicide bomb explosion according to media reports caused the lives of at least five people whil 36 others - among them a dozen foreigners - were injured in the blast, some of them seriously.

Health Minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu said at least 36 people were wounded in the explosion near a shopping area on Istiklal boulevard, a main high street in the centre of Istanbul just off Taksim Square.

Israeli media reported several Israelis were injured, including two critically, while Dogan news agency in Turkey said at least one of the dead was Israeli and one is Iranian. Seven people were listed in serious condition.

The Irish government confirmed that a number of Irish citizens were injured, the Press Association reported.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was quoted by Dogan as saying investigations would soon be completed and shed light on the incident.

The US State Department condemned the attack and said it would "remain in close touch" with Turkish authorities on the investigation.

Emergency services were rushed to the area and more than two dozen ambulances ferried people to hospital.

Istiklal street was largely closed down by police following the attack just before 11 am (0900 GMT) and remained that way into the evening. The centre of Istanbul was largely absent of the usual masses who crowd shops and restaurants.

A video from a closed circuit camera emerged showing the moment of the explosion which appeared to go off in the middle of a group of several people near a popular fish market.

"I had just ordered a coffee in the nearby shopping mall when we heard the explosion. It actually was not so loud. At first we thought a large piece of furniture had fallen down from a height," said Tolsum Merey.

The German Foreign Ministry advised its citizens in Turkey to stay in their hotels and pay attention to media reports and official statements following the bombing.

The government convened security meetings, local media reported.

The Turkish authorities instituted a partial broadcast ban on footage related to the bombing and social media websites were being throttled, some users reported. Both steps have become the norm after bombings in the country.

The blast comes as Turkey is on edge, following a massive car bombing in Ankara on March 13 which killed 37 people.

That attack was claimed by the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), a splinter group of the banned Kurdistan Workers‘ Party (PKK).

A similar attack last month in the capital left 30 dead and was also claimed by TAK.

The attack in Ankara this month was preceded by a warning from the US embassy about a potential terrorist act in the area.

German diplomatic missions and schools were closed this week in Istanbul and Ankara following what was described as a "concrete" terrorism threat, apparently from Islamic State.

However, after two days of being shut, authorities said the embassy in Ankara and consulate in Istanbul would reopen on Monday.

There was a large police presence in Istanbul on Friday night, as helicopters with search lights hovered above.

Istanbul‘s normally bustling night life was relatively quiet with many bars and restaurants in the Taksim area seeing few costumers.

In January, 12 tourists were killed by a suicide bomber in Istanbul in an attack the authorities blamed on Islamic State.

The combined effect of the attacks as well as the war in neighbouring Syria and a diplomatic row with Russia is having a devastating impact on Turkey‘s vital tourism sector.

Violence has been spiralling in Turkey since last summer. The largest terrorist attack in the country‘s history came in October, when 100 people were killed in an attack in Ankara blamed on Islamic State.

Meanwhile, the country has seen the conflict with PKK militants from the Kurdish minority reignited after a two-year ceasefire collapsed in July and peace talks were abandoned.

Hundreds have died, including civilians, in the mostly Kurdish south-eastern regions of the country in recent months. Kurds have long complained of systemic discrimination.

Turkey launched fresh airstrikes against the PKK‘s bases in northern Iraq on Friday and Saturday, Turkish and Kurdish media outlets said.

 

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