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Several dead after blast rocks Istanbul tourist district

© Ozan Kose, AFP | Turkish police block access to the Blue Mosque area after a deadly blast rocked Istanbul's tourist hub of Sultanahmet on January 12, 2016.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2016-01-12

A suicide bomber was the source of a large explosion that killed at least 10 people in a square popular with tourists in central Istanbul on Tuesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech broadcast on Turkish television.

"I condemn the terror incident in Istanbul, assessed to be an attack by a suicide bomber with Syrian origin," Erdogan said in a speech to Turkish ambassadors in Ankara that was broadcast live.

"Unfortunately we have 10 dead, including foreigners and Turkish nationals ... There are also 15 wounded," he said.

'Germany in shock'

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus added that the suspected suicide bomber had been identified from body parts as a Syrian national born in 1988 and that most of the dead were thought to be foreigners. Two of the 15 wounded were in a serious condition, he added.

Witnesses reported hearing a loud blast at the square in the Sultanahmet district of the Turkish city and video footage on the CNN Turk channel showed police and ambulances at the scene.

“The explosion was very loud. We shook a lot. We ran out and saw body parts,” one woman who works at a nearby antiques store told a Reuters correspondent, declining to give her name.

For further coverage, see Turkey's Hurriyet Daily News

"Investigations into the cause of the explosion, the type of explosion and perpetrator or perpetrators are under way,” the Istanbul governor's office said shortly after the blast.

Two senior Turkish security officials told Reuters earlier that there is a “high probability” that Islamic State (IS) group militants were responsible for the explosion.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu immediately convened a security meeting with the country's interior minister and other officials.

Police sealed off the area, barring people from approaching in case of a second explosion.

Main tourist area

The Sultanahmet neighbourhood is Istanbul's main sight-seeing area and includes the Topkapi Palace and Blue Mosque.

Kurdish, leftist and Islamist militants have all carried out attacks in Turkey in the past.

More than 30 people were killed in an Islamic State group suicide attack in the town of Suruc, near Turkey's border with Syria, in July.

In October two suicide attackers struck close to Ankara's main train station as people gathered for a peace rally. The blast, which has also been blamed on the IS group, killed more than 100 people.

Turkish authorities have in recent weeks detained several suspected IS group members with officials saying they were planning attacks in Istanbul.

But Turkey is also waging an all-out assault on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) which has staged dozens of deadly attacks against members of the security forces in the southeast of the country.

A Kurdish splinter group, the the Freedom Falcons of Kurdistan claimed a mortar attack on Istanbul's second international airport on December 23 which killed a female cleaner and damaged several planes

Meanwhile the banned ultra-left Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front has also staged a string of usually small-scale attacks in Istanbul over the last months.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP, REUTERS)

Date created : 2016-01-12

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