TEL AVIV – An explosion rocked a square in Sultanahmet, the historic district of central Istanbul on Tuesday, reportedly killing 10 people and wounding at least 15 others, including foreign nationals.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan labeled the attack a “terror incident” and announced that the explosion was likely the work of a Syrian suicide bomber.
“I condemn the terror incident in Istanbul assessed to be an attack by a suicide bomber of Syrian origin,” he said. “Unfortunately, we have 10 dead including foreigners and Turkish nationals. … There are also 15 wounded.”
He confirmed that tourists were among the dead and wounded but said Turkey was the main target.
The Dogan news agency in Turkey reported that six German citizens, one Norwegian, and one Peruvian were wounded in the attack.
Erdogan singled out the Islamic State and Kurdish separatists as threats to Turkey, but he did not cast blame for the attack.
Davutoğlu did not release any further information and he requested the country’s Radio and Television Supreme Council impose a “media ban on coverage of the explosion.”
An Anakara-based correspondent for Reuters tweeted that she has spoken to two Turkish officials who told her there was a “high probability” the attack was carried out by IS.
Two senior Turkish security officials say high probability that Islamic State militants responsible for explosion in Istanbul's #Sultanahmet
— Ece Toksabay (@ecetoksabay) January 12, 2016
The Guardian reported officials in Turkey believe the explosion to be the work of the Islamic State, although no claim of responsibility has yet been made.
Reuters further reported:
An official at the German foreign ministry said it could not be ruled out that German citizens may have been injured and that its crisis unit and the consulate in Istanbul were urgently working with the Turkish authorities to find out.
Norway’s foreign ministry said one Norwegian man was injured and was being treated in hospital. …
“We heard a loud sound and I looked at the sky to see if it was raining because I thought it was thunder, but the sky was clear,” said Kuwaiti tourist Farah Zamani, 24, who was shopping at one of the covered bazaars with her father and sister.
A police officer at the scene said the square was not densely packed at the time of the blast, but that small groups of tourists were wandering around.
“It was unimaginable,” he said, describing an amateur video he had seen of the immediate aftermath, with six or seven bodies lying on the ground and other people seriously wounded.
The U.S. Embassy in Turkey tweeted that it is following the events closely.
Ambassador Bass: Closely following reports of an explosion in #Sultanahmet. Our thoughts are with those affected…
— US Embassy Turkey (@USEmbassyTurkey) January 12, 2016
The New York Times reported from the scene:
By Tuesday afternoon, most of Sultanahmet’s historic square had been cordoned off as the police investigated. Helicopters hovered and the public was asked to leave the area.
Some police officers blocked journalists from entering the square and asked them to refrain from taking photographs and video because of a nationwide broadcast ban.
Erdogan, meanwhile, used his speech Tuesday to blast foreign academics who had criticized his government, including linguist and social critic Noam Chomsky.
“Pick a side. You are either on the side of the Turkish government or you’re on the side of the terrorists,” he said.
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.