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france 24 Europe

Istanbul suicide bomber identified as IS group member

© Stringer, ILHAS NEWS AGENCY, AFP | Turkish police, forensics and emergency services work on the scene of an explosion on the pedestrian Istiklal avenue in Istanbul on March 19, 2016.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2016-03-23

Turkey has identified the suicide bomber behind Saturday's attack in Istanbul as a member of Islamic State (IS) group born in the southern Turkish city of Gaziantep, Interior Minister Efkan Ala said on Sunday

“We have determined that Mehmet Ozturk, born in 1992 in Gaziantep, has carried out the heinous attack on Saturday in Istanbul. It has been established that he is a member of Daesh,” Ala told a news conference broadcast live on television.

Daesh is an Arabic acronym for the IS group.

The attack was the fourth apparent suicide bombing to hit Turkey this year.

Governor of Istanbul Vasip Sahin said the explosion occurred outside a local government office on Istiklal Street, which is also home to cafés, restaurants and foreign consulate buildings.

The White House said two Americans were among the four dead, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that at least two Israeli nationals died in the attacks.

The Irish Foreign Minister also confirmed that "a number of Irish citizens were among the injured".

"It was one loud explosion," said Muhammed Fatur, a Syrian who works at a butcher shop near the scene of Saturday's explosion. "Police came to the scene and sealed off the area."

Turkey had heightened security in Ankara and Istanbul in the run-up to a Kurdish spring festival of Newroz on March 21, which Kurds in Turkey traditionally use to assert their ethnic identity and demand greater rights.

But the public doesn’t seem to have been reassured. Istiklal Street, usually thronged with shoppers on weekends, was quieter than normal before the blast, as more people are staying home after a series of deadly bomb blasts.

“People are hunkering down,” said France 24 correspondent Jasper Mortimer. “They are not going out. They are frightened.”

Turkey was already on edge following two recent suicide car bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, which were claimed by a Kurdish militant group, an off-shoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.

The most recent attack, on March 13, targeted a line of bus stops on Ankara's busiest street and killed 37 including two bombers. A bomb in Ankara earlier last month killed 29 people.

In January, a suicide bomber killed around 10 people, most of them German tourists, in Istanbul’s historic heart, an attack the government blamed on the IS group.

(FRANCE 24 with AP and REUTERS)

Date created : 2016-03-20

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