Istanbul Hit by Suicide Attack

*Source: Reuters/ Murad Sezer ©

Istanbul Hit by Suicide Attack

A suicide bombing on Istiklal Avenue in the heart of Istanbul killed five people and injured 36 this morning. Seven others remain in critical condition in hospital.

This bustling street was filled with morning shoppers at the time, similar to Oxford Street in London or Fifth Avenue in New York. The bombing took place in front of the local governor’s office of Beyoğlu at 11.00 local time. The scene was quickly evacuated by the police and cordoned off with helicopters flying above.

Hürriyet Daily News reported that among those who lost their lives were two Israeli citizens and one Iranian, with another Israeli feared dead. The injured included 12 foreigners and a child as the bombing hit this busy shopping area close to Taksim square.

No group has claimed responsibility so far, however Turkey has been subject to terrorist attacks by a range of groups this year, including two Kurdish organizations; the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK) and the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), as well as the so-called Islamic State (Daesh) and the far-left Marxist group, the DHKP/c.

Reuters have reported government claims that the initial investigation indicates PKK involvement. The PKK have increasingly avoided civilian targets since the height of the conflict in the 90s. According to a Turkish official, the attacker was diverted from their original target and detonated the bomb “out of fear.”

Turkish newspapers such as Karar and Birgün also been reported that the attacker was identified as Savaş Yıldız, a former DHKP/c member who had defected to Daesh. Yıldız is also believed to be responsible for attacks on Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) offices in Mersin and Adana. Though some have published Yıldız’s alleged ID card, there has been no independent or official verification. Doğan News Agency reports that a DNA test is underway to establish the identity of the attacker.

Although this attack and the Ankara bombing last Sunday could suggest a tactical shift for the PKK (via TAK), it is indicated that both bombings were detonated prematurely. The PKK is expected to increase its activities as spring arrives.

The bombing follows a much larger attack on Ankara just last Sunday by TAK in which 37 people were killed, and has been anticipated by locals and analysts for some time. The German consulate, which is close to Taksim, had previously closed its offices based on ‘concrete intelligence’ of a ‘possible imminent attack’.

Istanbul suffered another suicide bombing in January, close to the tourist hot-spot of Sultanahmet, in which 10 German tourists were killed.

Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, has pledged that the government will continue in their fight against terrorism; stating that “Terrorism once again showed its ugly and treacherous face, and targeted civilians.” “Our struggle against terrorism will continue in the most decisive manner and on all levels, both here and abroad. We expect the whole world, first and foremost Europe, to cooperate with us in the fight against terrorism.”

International leaders and domestic parties such as the People’s Democratic Party have condemned the attack. Israel’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon has also confirmed there were a number of Israelis injured in the attack.

An AKP Eyüp employee, Irem Aktaş, caused controversy when she tweeted that she “wished all the injured [Israelis] would die.” Aktaş has been removed from her post, but the tweet along with the death of Israeli citizens is being widely reported in the Israeli  media. Prime Minister Netanyahu reported that Israeli authorities will investigate whether Israeli citizens were deliberately targeted. Thus far there is no evidence to suggest that they were.

Turkey’s Supreme Board of Radio and Television (RTÜK) has issued a broadcasting ban temporarily which may be followed by the blocking of social media channels, as has been the case with previous attacks.

Independent Turkey

Independent Turkey, “Istanbul Hit by Suicide Attack”, Independent Turkey, 19 March 2016, London: Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey (Research Turkey). Original link: http://researchturkey.org/?p=11058

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