Turkish president says 53 people injured in ‘treacherous attack’ on İstiklal Avenue
An explosion on Istanbul’s popular pedestrian thoroughfare İstiklal Avenue has left at least six people dead and 53 others injured, Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said.
Speaking shortly before departing for Tuesday’s G20 summit in Bali, Erdoğan spoke of a “treacherous attack”. “Those responsible will be punished,” he said.
The explosion occurred at about 4.20pm local time (1320 GMT) on Sunday, the Istanbul governor, Ali Yerlikaya, tweeted.
The cause of it was not immediately clear. Five prosecutors were assigned to investigate the explosion, the state-run Anadolu news agency said.
The explosion shook buildings around the busy tourist area, rattling windows and sending flocks of pigeons into the air. One video posted online showed a ball of fire rising in the street among crowds of shoppers, who turned and ran in the other direction.
Other footage showed a few people scattered around the site of the explosion, in front of a large Mango store, with some people rushing to help. Ambulances, fire engines and police were seen at the scene.
An hour after the explosion, parts of the avenue remained open to pedestrians, while shops shuttered and police helicopters roared overhead.
At a police cordon to block off the area immediately around the explosion, fearful families and tourists tried to hurry away as security services locked down access to the section of the street leading to the city’s central Taksim Square.
The Turkish media regulator, RTUK, imposed a ban on sharing footage of the explosion or its immediate aftermath, with the exception of government statements. Some Turkish users said they were unable to access Twitter without a VPN.
İstiklal Avenue is a crowded street popular with tourists and locals, lined by shops and restaurants.
Turkey was hit by a string of deadly bombings between 2015 and 2017 by the Islamic State group and outlawed Kurdish groups.
They included a suicide bomber attack on the same street on 19 March 2016, which killed five people and injured 36. Turkish police later said that the bomber had links to the Islamic State group.
In January that year, a suicide bomber in the busy Sultanahmet district killed 13. In June, attackers armed with automatic weapons and explosives belts attacked the entrance of Istanbul’s Atatürk airport, killing 45 people other than the attackers and injuring more than 230.
SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN