A car bomb ripped through a police bus near Istanbul’s historic centre yesterday, killing seven officers and four civilians in the latest attack in Turkey’s biggest city. The blast targeted a shuttle service carrying anti-riot police as it passed through Beyazit district, close to many of the city’s top tourist sites, Istanbul governor Vasip Sahin said. Thirty-six people were wounded, he added.
Police and rescuers inspect the site of a bomb attack that targeted a police bus in Vezneciler district of Istanbul yesterday. Pic/AFP
Who did it?
There was no early claim of responsibility, but President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hinted the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) was behind the attack. For the PKK to target major cities such as Istanbul “is nothing new,” he said. “We will fight against terrorists relentlessly to the end.” Erdogan also vowed the culprits would “pay in kind the price for the bloodshed.”
The blast reduced the police vehicle to mangled wreckage and windows in nearby shops were shattered. Reports said that shots were heard afterwards. The attack occurred opposite an upscale hotel favoured by foreign tourists, the Celal Aga Konagi Hotel, a converted Ottoman mansion.
The Sehzade Mosque — one of the greatest masterpieces of Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan – was also damaged. Loudspeakers warned people to vacate the area, after which a controlled explosion was carried out on a suspect vehicle.
Reports said the explosion took place close to Vezneciler metro station, within walking distance of some of the city’s main tourist sites including the famed Suleymaniye Mosque. The metro station was closed as a security precaution.
French President Francois Hollande condemned the attack as “intolerable act of violence” that should strengthen common resolve to fight terrorism. US Ambassador to Ankara John Bass said in a Twitter message: “Such senseless violence could never be rationalized by any cause.”
The United States will “continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Turkey in the fight against terrorism,” Bass said. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini also reaffirmed support.