Several dead, injured as strong blast rocks central Istanbul

© Kemal Aslan, Reuters

A bomb rocked a bustling pedestrian avenue in the heart of Istanbul on Sunday, killing six people, wounding several dozen and leaving panicked people to flee the fiery blast or huddle in cafes and shops.

Emergency vehicles rushed to the scene on Istiklal Avenue, a popular thoroughfare lined with shops and restaurants that leads to the iconic Taksim Square. In one video posted online, a loud bang could be heard and a flash seen as pedestrians turned and ran away.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the blast a “treacherous attack” and said its perpetrators would be punished. He did not say who was behind the attack but said it had the “smell of terror” without offering details and also adding that was not certain yet.

Sunday’s explosion was a shocking reminder of the anxiety and safety concerns that stalked the Turkish population during years when such attacks were common. The country was hit by a string of bombings between 2015 and 2017, some by the Islamic State group, others by Kurdish militants who seek increased autonomy or independence.

In recent years, Erdogan has led a broad crackdown on the militants as well as on Kurdish lawmakers and activists. Amid skyrocketing inflation and other economic troubles, Erdogan’s anti-terrorism campaign is a key rallying point for him ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections next year.

A manager of a restaurant near where the bomb went off said he heard the explosion and saw people running. The dozens of customers inside his restaurant, including women and children, panicked and screamed.

(AP)


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