A bomb ripped through one of Istanbul’s busiest streets on Sunday, killing six people. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan hinted that the blast could be an act of terrorism.
The attack also injured 81 people, officials said. The blast happened at 4:20 p.m. on Istiklal Avenue, a pedestrian street lined with restaurants, shops and consulates. Thousands of people, including tourists, visit the area every day.
“Our state is working to uncover the perpetrators of this treacherous attack. Efforts to force Turkey and the Turkish people to surrender to terrorism will not be successful,” Erdoğan told reporters in TV commentary. “The first information I received from the governor reeks of terrorism,” he said.
Istiklal Avenue was the scene of a March 2016 suicide bombing blamed on Islamic State that killed five people, including two Israeli-Americans. This attack was part of a series of bombings that began ahead of the November 2015 elections, killing hundreds of people.
There were no direct culprits in Sunday’s attack, the deadliest bombing in Istanbul since late 2016. Kurdish fighters and left-wing extremists have also staged bombings in Turkey’s largest city in the past.
Fuat Oktay, Turkey’s vice-president, told reporters that authorities were treating the blast as “an act of terrorism resulting from an assailant who we believe is a woman detonating the bomb.” . He did not provide any further information about the identity of the assassin or whether he belonged to any group.
Turkey is scheduled to hold presidential and parliamentary elections in June next year. The attack could also threaten Turkey’s troubled economy, which depends on tourism for tens of billions of dollars in foreign currency inflows.
A video posted to social media showed a ball of flames and a loud bang on the crowded street. Another video showed at least 10 people lying motionless on the ground and an overturned stroller with chunks of concrete strewn on it.
Authorities on Sunday imposed reporting restrictions on TV and radio coverage, instructing them to only report official statements to “prevent civil turmoil that could serve the purposes of terrorist organizations,” according to the government’s communications directorate.
Access to Twitter and other social media sites was sporadic, and the state’s Information and Communication Technologies Agency limited the platforms’ bandwidth, the IHA news agency reported.
Istanbul’s chief prosecutor said in a statement that an investigation had been launched into “posts with negative messages on social media accounts” about the attack, and the national police said they were investigating 25 account holders.
Turkey last month enacted a “disinformation law” that provides jail terms of up to three years for posts on social media deemed to threaten national security or public health.
https://www.ft.com/content/3a2f1e2e-fecb-4115-9618-d0337ce10dd3 Six dead in bomb attack in central Istanbul