Explosion in Istanbul Kills 11 Civilians, Second Blast Rocks Hotel

AP Photo
The Associated Press

A powerful explosion, allegedly from a suicide bomber, shook a central neighborhood of Istanbul Tuesday morning, killing at least 11 and wounding another 15, including some tourists.

The bomb went off around 10:20am local time in the Sultanahmet district, an area very popular with tourists and home to the major tourist attractions of the city such as the Blue mosque, Hagia Sophia and the Topkapi Palace.

According to a local TV station, the explosion occurred near the Obelisk of Theodosius, citing sources that a suicide bomber blew himself up, though this has yet to be confirmed.

Turkish police and several ambulances arrived on the spot soon after, and officials have closed off the area and are sweeping the zone for fear of a possible second bomb.

“We’re taking precautions against a second explosion,” a police officer said while ushering people out of the square.

The identities of the victims are still unknown, but early reports suggest that as many as eight are German tourists. Tourists from Germany, Norway and East Asia are reportedly among those wounded in the blast.

Witnesses offered varying accounts of the incident. “The explosion was very loud,” said one woman who works at a nearby antiques store. “We shook a lot. We ran out and saw body parts.”

A second blast in another district of Istanbul, Maltepe, left a hotel under construction engulfed in flames. According to witnesses reported by Turkish media, some six workers are trapped inside and others have been taken to the hospital.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called an emergency meeting shortly after the blast, attended by Interior Minister, Efkan Ala, to discuss how best to respond to the attack.

Turkey has been on high alert in recent months, with increasing violence in the southeast of the country, and Kurdish, leftist and Islamist militants have all carried out attacks in Turkey in the past.

In October two suicide blasts killed more than 100 people in Ankara, which the Turkish government attributed to militants of the Islamic State.

In recent weeks Turkish authorities have detained several suspected Islamic State members, and officials have claimed they were planning attacks in Istanbul.

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome