ISTANBUL — The calm of a sunny afternoon on the most popular pedestrian thoroughfare in Turkey’s commercial and tourist capital was shattered by an explosion on Sunday, as diplomatic tensions mount over those suspected of being responsible for the murders.
Several bodies were lying on the ground after the explosion. The death toll announced later by the government was six dead, including two children, including a 3-year-old girl. More than 80 people were injured, some seriously.
CCTV footage appears to show the blast was caused by a bag full of explosives left on a bench. A woman reportedly sat on the bench for more than 40 minutes and then left shortly before it exploded.
Police immediately began cordoning off the surrounding area as ambulance sirens wailed and a low-flying helicopter circled overhead, as witnessed by Al-Monitor on the ground near and on the street.
Istiklal Avenue, where the attack took place, has many shops, restaurants and places of worship, including several churches, mosques and several foreign consulates. It is located at the highest elevation in this area on the European side of the city. Street musicians ply their trade every evening along the street, and many shops and restaurants are owned by Turks of various ethnicities.
Immediately afterwards, groups of men who were not wearing any official uniform began cutting off vehicle access to other streets leading to the street, looking around suspiciously. Meanwhile, police men and women cleared the street itself and ordered journalists to stay away from the site of the attack, possibly for fear of a secondary attack.
Later that night, access to surrounding streets was still blocked but now occupied by additional traffic cops dispatched.
The ramifications of Sunday’s attack in central Istanbul could resonate in the chambers of international diplomacy given Turkey’s announcement of the arrest of a Syrian woman from an area under US control. United and led by the Kurds. Syrian Democratic Forces (homeless).
However, no group has claimed responsibility for the explosion so far, and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and SDF have explicitly denied any involvement.
The PKK is designated terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the EU. Most commanders are Turkish nationals who have lived abroad for many years and are wanted by the authorities.
Turkish officials claimed the woman confessed to being recruited as an intelligence officer by the US-backed People’s Defense Units (YPG), Turkish media reported overnight Sunday-Monday.
Turkey also uses the term “PKK” to refer to the YPG.
“The person who planted the bomb has been arrested,” Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said in a statement, noting that 21 other suspects had also been arrested.
“Our assessment is that the order for the deadly terrorist attack came from Ayn al-Arab (also known as Kobane) in northern Syria, where the PKK/YPG has its Syrian headquarters,” said Soylu, quoted by the official Turkish news agency. Anadolu.
“We will retaliate against those responsible for this heinous terrorist attack,” he promised. In response to condolences sent by the United States, it was quoted by Turkish media saying: “I believe that the support of our so-called allies for terrorists, by hiding them in their countries or by giving them a lifeline in the areas they occupied, by financing them by decisions of their senate, is obvious; it is a flagrant lack of sincerity.
Soylu also said the suspect was ordered killed after carrying out the attack by the attack organizations in an effort to prevent Turkish authorities from establishing the network behind it.
Video released of the operation to arrest the woman showed security guards finding large amounts of cash and weapons and ammunition as well as the clothes she was wearing in the video at the time of the attack .
Turkish authorities said on Monday that investigations were ongoing.