Istanbul’s tourist hub of Sultanahmet left 10 people dead, 15 injured in explosion

January 12, 2016 6:55 pm

 A
policeman gestures as he patrols with a colleague at the historic
Sultanahmet district after an explosion in Istanbul. Photo / AP

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has convened an emergency
security meeting of key ministers and officials after a suspected attack
on Istanbul’s tourist hub of Sultanahmet left 10 people dead.
Those
taking part in the meeting include the powerful Interior Minister Efkan
Ala and spy chief Hakan Fidan, the Anatolia agency said.
Fifteen were also wounded in the attack, officials said.
’s Dogan news agency says at least six Germans, one Norwegian and one Peruvian are among the injured in the explosion.
A
spokeswoman for the Norwegian Foreign Ministry in Oslo said the office
is working with the embassy in Turkey to check media reports of
Norwegian citizens among the wounded.
Seoul’s Foreign Ministry also told reporters via text message that one South Korean had a slight finger injury after the blast.

A powerful blast rocked the Sultanahmet neighbourhood which is
home to Istanbul’s biggest concentration of monuments and and is
visited by tens of thousands of tourists every day.
Turkey is on
edge after a series of deadly attacks blamed on the Islamic State
jihadist group including a double suicide bombing in the capital Ankara
in October that left 103 people dead.
“Terrorist links are suspected,” a Turkish official told AFP of Tuesday’s blast, asking not to be named.

Ambulances
and police were despatched to Sultanahmet, the city’s main tourist hub,
which is home to world-famous monuments including the Blue Mosque and
the Hagia Sophia.
“Investigations into the cause of the
explosion, the type of explosion and perpetrator or perpetrators are
under way,” the Istanbul governor’s office said in a statement quoted by
the Dogan news agency.

Policemen secure the historic Sultanahmet district, which is popular with tourists, as ambulances arrive after an explosion in Istanbul. Photo / AP
Policemen secure the historic Sultanahmet
district, which is popular with tourists, as ambulances arrive after an
explosion in Istanbul. Photo / AP
Images published by Dogan showed several apparently dead bodies lying on the ground.
Media
reports said the authorities were studying the possibility the blast
was caused by a suicide bomber but there was no official confirmation.
The explosion was powerful enough to be heard in adjacent neighbourhoods, witnesses told AFP.
Police cordoned off the area to shocked passers-by and tourists and the nearby tram service has been halted.
“The
explosion was so loud, the ground shook. there was a very heavy smell
that burned my nose,” a German tourist named Caroline told AFP.

A policemen patrols at the Sultanahmet district after an explosion as the Blue Mosque is seen in the background in Istanbul. Photo / AP
A policemen patrols at the Sultanahmet
district after an explosion as the Blue Mosque is seen in the background
in Istanbul. Photo / AP
“I started running away with my daughter. We went into a
nearby building and stayed there for half an hour. It was really scary,”
she added.
Media reports said the blast took place at 0820 GMT
around the Obelisk of Theodosius, a monument from ancient Egypt which
was re-erected by the Roman Emperor Theodosius and is one of the city’s
most eye-catching monuments.
Turkey is on alert after 103 people
were killed on October 10 when two suicide bombers blew themselves up in
a crowd of peace activists in Ankara, the bloodiest attack in the
country’s modern history.

Policemen install security barriers. Photo / AP
Policemen install security barriers. Photo / AP
That attack was blamed on Islamic State (IS) jihadists, as
were two other deadly bombings in the country’s Kurdish-dominated
southeast earlier in the year.
Turkish authorities have in recent
weeks detained several suspected IS 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.
The PKK launched an insurgency against the
Turkish state in 1984, initially fighting for Kurdish independence
although now more for greater autonomy and rights for the country’s
largest ethnic minority.
The conflict, which has left tens of
thousands of people dead, looked like it could be nearing a resolution
until an uneasy truce was shattered in July.
A Kurdish splinter
group, the Freedom Falcons of Kurdistan (TAK), 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 (DHKP-C) has
also staged a string of usually small-scale attacks in Istanbul over the
last months.

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