- The explosion on the pedestrian avenue injured 53 people
- Erdogan called it a bomb and promised to punish the culprits
- No one has claimed responsibility for the blast
- In 2015-2016, Turkish cities were targeted by successive attacks
ISTANBUL, Nov 13 (Reuters) – Six people were killed and 53 injured when an explosion ripped through a busy pedestrian street in central Istanbul on Sunday, in what Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan called a bomb attack that “smells of terror”.
Ambulances rushed to the scene along Istiklal Avenue, which was quickly cordoned off by the police. The area in the Beyoğlu district of Turkey’s largest city is packed with shoppers, tourists and families as usual on weekends.
Video footage obtained by Reuters showed the explosion at 4:13 p.m. (1313 GMT), sending debris flying into the air, leaving several people lying on the ground and others fleeing the scene.
At a press conference in Istanbul, Erdogan said: “The attempt to defeat Turkey and the Turkish people through terror will fail today and tomorrow, as it did yesterday.”
“Our people can be sure that the culprits behind the attack will receive the deserved punishment,” he said, adding that the initial information suggests that “a woman played a role.”
“It would be wrong to say this is definitely a terrorist attack, but from my governor’s initial stories and initial intelligence, it smacks of terror,” he added.
No one has claimed responsibility for the blast. But Istanbul and other Turkish cities have previously been targeted by Kurdish separatists, Islamist militants and other groups, including a series of attacks in 2015 and 2016.
‘THE PEOPLE FROZEN’
Footage from Reuters showed people attending to victims after the blast, and later white-coated investigators collecting material from the scene, where pieces of a concrete planter were strewn across the avenue.
“When I heard the explosion, I was stunned, people looked at each other and froze. Then people run away. What else can you do,” said 45-year-old Mehmet Akus, who works in one of the restaurants in Istiklal.
“My relatives called me and they know that I work in Istiklal. I assured them,” he told Reuters.
A helicopter took off from the scene, and a number of ambulances were stationed near Taksim Square. Turk Kyzylai reported that the blood is being transferred to nearby hospitals.
If confirmed, it would be the first major bombing in Istanbul in years.
In December 2016, 38 people were killed and 155 injured in a double bombing outside the football stadium in Istanbul.
A number of countries including Greece, Egypt, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Pakistan condemned the attack and offered condolences for the victims.
European Council President Charles Michel expressed his condolences on Twitter after the “horrific news”.
Additional reporting by Eje Toksabay in Ankara, written by Jonathan Spicer; Edited by Gareth Jones
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