Suicide blast hits Istanbul

At least 32 wounded in explosion carried out by suicide bomber in heart of Turkish city, police say.

Istanbul blast
Sunday’s bomb attack in Istanbul’s Taksim Square wounded 15 police officers and 17 civilians [Reuters]

A suicide bomber has injured 32 people in an attack in the Turkish city of Istanbul, police say.

The incident occurred on Sunday close to where police were stationed in Taksim Square, in the heart of the city’s shopping district.

Among those wounded, 17 are civilians while 15 belong to the police force, two of whom are said to be in a serious condition.

“It was a suicide bomb and it appears as if the bomber blew himself up. It appears to be a male body,” Huseyin Capkin, the police chief, said.

Al Jazeera’s Anita McNaught, reporting from the scene, said police were looking for a second attacker. 

“A second bomb had been planted right next to the suicide bomber,” she said.

“That bomb did not go off but had it done so, with huge crowds gathered after the first explosion as you would expect, that bomb was designed to cause maximum damage.”

Our correspondent said the only confirmed death was that of the suicide bomber.

“On one side of the square, usually a series of police buses are parked, on guard for any kind of civil disorder. The target of this explosion appears to have been one or two of those buses,” she said.

Some buildings around Taksim Square were damaged in the blast.

“It was a terrifying, very loud explosion,” Mehmet Toz, who was in the square at the time of the blast, said. “Everyone started to run around, people fell on the ground. There was panic, we couldn’t make out what had happened.”

Following the blast, a security cordon was thrown round the area and the nearby Istiklal street was closed off for pedestrians.

‘Date significant’

The outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is often blamed for attacks in Turkey. The group has waged a bloody 26-year campaign for self-rule in mainly Kurdish southeast Turkey.

Al Jazeera’s McNaught said the timing of the latest bombing in Taksim Square was significant since a unilateral truce declared by the PKK two months ago expires on October 31.

“Today was the day they said was the absolute limit to how long they could hold that ceasefire for, on the basis of wanting to see improvement in negotiations with the government.

“No doubt that is going to be a date that factors into people’s considerations when they weigh up what might or might not be behind the blast.

“Today was also meant to be the final celebrations of the Turkish Republic Day … The Turkish president was due not at Taksim Square but at a location not far away.”

On June 22 a bomb exploded in a suburb of Istanbul as a bus full of soldiers was going past, killing six people.

Responsibility was claimed by the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), a group loyal to Abdullah
Ocalan, the jailed PKK leader. The PKK has said TAK is a splinter group outside its control.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies