Syrian Ahlam A. was arrested by the police. She is suspected of being behind the bombing.
Fabian Babic and Georg Nopper
Bloodbath at the popular tourist hotspot: A bomb attack in the Turkish metropolis of Istanbul claimed the lives of six and injured at least 81 people.
The Turkish government assumes terrorism. Although nothing is known about the background to the attack, the police have already been able to arrest the alleged perpetrator – and according to the Turkish authorities, she has confessed to the crime. The investigation is proceeding swiftly.
The fact: bang triggers mass panic
The attack took place in Istanbul’s European district on Sunday afternoon at around 4:20 p.m. (local time). The target was Istiklal Street. The street is a popular shopping mile. After the explosion, the street was cordoned off and shops closed.
A powerful bang can be heard on videos, followed by a huge cloud of fire. Rescue sirens could be heard in the area surrounding the crime scene. The images also show a large, black crater and several people lying on the ground.
Immediately after the explosion, passers-by ran away in panic. The city center was then cordoned off over a large area. Helicopters flew over the shopping mile and adjacent districts in the early evening.
The suspect: Ahlam A. admits the attack
According to the Turkish authorities, a suspect could have been arrested early Monday morning. This is the Syrian Ahlam A.* She is said to have deposited the bomb. On the day of the attack, the Turkish government spoke of a suspicious woman. Video footage showed a woman sitting on a bench for about 40 minutes and getting up minutes before the blast, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag (57) said.
According to their own statements, the police have so far arrested 46 people in connection with the attack. According to the government, the banned Kurdish workers’ party PKK is behind the attack.
As the public broadcaster TRT reported on Monday morning, Ahlam A. admitted the crime and its connections to the Syrian Kurdish militia YPG. She entered Turkey illegally on behalf of the YPG to carry out the attack. Turkey equates the YPG with the banned Kurdish Workers’ Party PKK. The militia itself claims to be independent. During the arrest in an apartment, a pistol, ammunition and a large amount of money were confiscated.
Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu (52) announced retaliation. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (68) also assured shortly after the “insidious attack”: “Those responsible will get the punishment they deserve.”
The PKK is on the terrorist lists in Turkey, Europe and the USA. The Kurdish militia YPG, on the other hand, is not seen as a terrorist organization by the USA, but is seen as a partner in the Syrian civil war in the fight against the terrorist militia Islamic State (IS). The conflict between the PKK and Turkey, which has been going on since 1984, has so far cost the lives of tens of thousands of people. A ceasefire failed in the summer of 2015.
The victims: Nine-year-old girl dies
According to official figures, the explosion killed six people and injured 81 others – some of them seriously. The Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca (57) wrote on Twitter that 39 of the injured had been released from the hospital. Of the 42 people still being treated, five were in intensive care.
The Turkish Interior Minister Soylu also announced the names of the fatalities: Among them were Yusuf M. * († 34) and his daughter Ecrin († 9), as reported by Turkish media. M. worked for the Turkish Ministry of Family and Social Affairs.
According to the current state of knowledge, there were no Swiss among the victims of the attack, as the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) wrote on request from Blick. However, we are in contact with the local authorities.
The scene of the crime: Flanierstrasse targeted again
The Istiklal shopping street in the Beyoglu district is a popular promenade for both tourists and locals. Sundays are also usually very crowded. Some European consulates – such as France, Russia or Greece – are located on this street. There is usually a very high police presence. On the day of the assassination, some football fans also thronged Istiklal Street. A Besiktas Istanbul game was scheduled for the evening at the nearby stadium. The game was then canceled for safety reasons.
It wasn’t the first time a bomb had gone off in this tourist hotspot. In March 2016, an explosion killed four tourists and a Turkish suicide bomber. 39 people were injured in this attack. According to the Turkish government, there were links between the assassin and the Islamic State (IS) terrorist militia. However, the organization itself did not claim responsibility for the attack at the time.
The Turkish media: reporting suspended
The Turkish broadcasting authority Rtük imposed a temporary news ban on Sunday evening. The reason given: You want to avoid panic and fear in the population. Only interviews with ministers were still broadcast in this regard. According to opposition media, the police stopped filming in the city center without explicit permission.
In addition, the Turkish authorities reduced the bandwidth for social media platforms on the evening of the attack. The result: Instagram or Twitter were much slower to reach for users. At the same time, investigations were launched against some people who had spread “negative reports” about the event on social media.
* Name known