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Deadly suicide bombing hits Istanbul shopping street

Bulent Kilic, AFP |Turkish police push people away after an explosion on the pedestrian Istiklal avenue in Istanbul on March 19, 2016

At least four people were killed and 36 wounded in a suicide bombing on a major shopping and tourist district in central Istanbul on Saturday, Istanbul’s governor said Saturday.


Health Minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu said seven of the wounded are in serious condition and 12 of the injured were foreigners.

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

Initial findings indicate that the attack was carried out by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), an affiliate or the Islamic State (IS) group, Turkish officials said.

The attacker was deterred from an initial target by police and detonated the bomb "out of fear", the official said.

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. Forensic teams in white suits were scouring the area for evidence.

Sahin said one of wounded victims died in hospital.

The White House said two Americans were among the dead, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that at least two Israeli nationals died in the attacks. A third may have been killed as well.

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)



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