At least ten people were killed and 15 others were injured Tuesday after an explosion in a historic district of Istanbul popular with tourists, with one local news agency reporting six Germans were among the wounded.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in televised remarks that a Syria-linked suicide bomber was believed to be behind the blast in the Sultanahmet area of the city and that Turks and foreigners were among the dead. A government official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of government rules, told the Associated Press the explosion was believed to be “terror-linked”.
Omer Celik, the spokesman for Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s ruling party issued a statement condemning what he called “a heinous attack.” Davutoglu convened a security meeting immediately following the explosion with the country’s interior minister and other officials.
Turkey’s Dogan news agency reported that at least six Germans, one Norwegian and one Peruvian were among the wounded, and Seoul’s Foreign Ministry told reporters via text message that one South Korean had a finger injury.
Germany warned its citizens to avoid crowds outside tourist attractions in Istanbul, saying on a government website that further violent clashes and “terrorist attacks” are expected across Turkey. It also urged travelers to stay away from demonstrations and gatherings, particularly in large cities.
As with previous attacks, authorities imposed a news blackout, barring media from showing images of the dead or injured or reporting any details of the investigation.
Private NTV television said the explosion happened close to a park that is home to a landmark obelisk on the site of an ancient Roman hipppodrome, approximately 25 yards from Istanbul’s landmark Blue Mosque.
Sultanahmet is Istanbul’s main sightseeing area and includes the Topkapi Palace and the Haghia Sophia museum.
Police sealed the area, barring people from approaching in case of a second explosion and a police helicopter hovered overhead
The explosion was set off at approximately 10:20 a.m. local time, according to the Hurriyet newspaper.
Erdem Koroglu, who was working at a nearby office at the time of the explosion, told NTV television he saw several people lying on the ground following the blast.
“It was difficult to say who was alive or dead,” Koroglu said. “Buildings rattled from the force of the explosion.”
Turkey suffered two major bombing attacks last year.
More than 30 people were killed in an ISIS suicide attack in the town of Suruc, near Turkey’s border with Syria, in July.
Two suicide bombs in October outside Ankara’s main train station as people gathered for a peace rally killed more than 100 people. It was Turkey’s deadliest attack. The prosecutor’s office said the attack was carried out by a local ISIS cell.
Last month, Turkish authorities arrested two suspected ISIS militants they said were planning suicide bombings during New Year’s celebrations in the capital.