Turkish ministers this morning accused the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) of causing a fireball explosion in an Istanbul shopping district which left six people dead, including a young girl and her father.
Police confirmed they had arrested someone in connection with the suspected terror attack, having previously been on the hunt for a female bomber.
Interior minister Suleyman Soylu said overnight: ‘According to our findings, the PKK terrorist organisation is responsible.’
It comes after a little girl, Ecrin, and her father Yusuf Medyan were confirmed to be among those killed in the attack, in which more than 80 others were also wounded.
Mr Medyan worked for Turkey’s ministry of family and social services, Sky News reports. The department’s minister, Derya Yanik, said: ‘I curse this treacherous attack that killed a father and his daughter.
‘As the state, we stand by the families of our brothers and sisters who lost their lives and with our wounded people with all our means. No evil focus will be able to disrupt our unity and solidarity.’
Shocking videos posted online showed the moment a fireball erupted on the street and a loud blast as pedestrians turned and fled in horror.
Other harrowing clips showed bodies and an empty pushchair lying on the ground in the immediate aftermath of the explosion before the scene was cordoned off by forensic teams.
Istiklal Avenue, popular with both locals and tourists and lined with shops and restaurants, was packed with people when the blast rang out at around 4:20pm local time (1:20pm GMT).
Four people died at the scene, with another two succumbing to their injuries in hospital.
An Italian student who survived the bomb attack said that he feels lucky to be alive after walking down Istiklal Avenue when the explosion occurred.
Speaking to the Mirror hours later, Massimo D’Angelo, 30, said: ‘I was with my colleagues and classmates, we had been to a museum and decided to go get a coffee. We were walking from Taksim Square to Galata and had to cross Istiklal.
‘Suddenly we heard boom, boom and then it went silent. I think everyone took a few seconds to figure out what was going on. I thought is this a mass shooting?
Young girl Ecrin Medyan, who was among six people killed in a fireball explosion in an Istanbul shopping district, has been pictured
The little girl, Ecrin, and her father, Yusuf Medyan (pictured together), were killed in the suspected terror attack in the Turkish city in which more than 80 others were injured
‘But then I could smell what I think was gunpowder. The smell was like something was burning but it was really strange, I really remember the smell.’
Mr D’Angelo recalled seeing ‘hundreds if not thousands’ of people running and shouting but he said that the rest is a blur as he ran towards the sea to safety.
Turkish justice minister Bekir Bozdag had earlier told pro-government broadcaster A Haber that investigators were looking into a woman who sat on a bench by the scene of the blast for about 40 minutes. The explosion took place just minutes after she left, suggesting the attack may not have been authored by a suicide bomber.
Bozdag said: ‘A woman had been sitting on one of the benches for more than 40 minutes and then she got up. ‘One or two minutes later, an explosion occurred.
‘There are two possibilities,’ he said. ‘There’s either a mechanism and it explodes, or someone remotely explodes (it). All data on this woman are currently under scrutiny,’ he added.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who left the country earlier today for the upcoming G20 summit, said the explosion had the ‘smell’ of a terror attack.
He did not specify who may have been behind the explosion but stated a woman was thought to have been involved. In a televised statement he said: ‘Our nation should be sure that the perpetrators of the incident on Istiklal Street will be punished as they deserve.
‘It would be wrong to say this is undoubtedly a terrorist attack but the initial developments and initial intelligence from my governor is that it smells like terrorism… Efforts to take over Turkey and the Turkish nation through terrorism will not reach its goal.’
Vice President Fuat Oktay meanwhile visited the scene alongside interior minster Suleyman Soylu, also declaring the blast appeared to have been authored by a female bomber.
Oktay said: ‘We believe that it is a terrorist act carried out by an attacker, whom we consider to be a woman, exploding the bomb.’
No one has yet claimed responsibility, though Istanbul and other Turkish cities have been targeted in the past by Kurdish separatists, Islamist militants and other groups.
Members of the crime scene investigation police (C) work as Turkish policemen secure the area after a strong explosion of unknown origin shook the busy shopping street of Istiklal in Istanbul, on November 13, 2022. The charred remains of an abandoned pushchair can be seen standing in the street
People at the scene after an explosion occurred on Istiklal street, a busy pedestrian thoroughfare on November 13, 2022 in Istanbul, Turkey. It is unclear what caused the explosion that left at least six people dead and dozens injured, according to reports
Forensic technicians cover a trolley that was left behind after an explosion on busy pedestrian Istiklal street in Istanbul, Turkey, November 13, 202
Police members work at the scene after an explosion on busy pedestrian Istiklal street in Istanbul, Turkey, November 13, 2022
Mobile footage caught the moment an explosion went off on a busy street in Istanbul this afternoon
The blast killed six people and inured dozens, as footage from the scene showed several bodies strewn on ground (pictured)
People leave to a secured area after an explosion on Istiklal street, a busy pedestrian thoroughfare on November 13, 2022 in Istanbul, Turkey
Members of the forensics team work next to a baby trolley left behind, near the scene of an explosion on busy pedestrian Istiklal street in Istanbul, Turkey, November 13
People run after an explosion on busy pedestrian Istiklal street in Istanbul, Turkey, November 13, 2022, in this still image obtained from a social media video
Turkish President Erdogan said: ‘We cannot say for sure that it is a terror attack but there is a smell of it as far as I know’
Turkish media on Sunday reported that an explosion on Istanbul’s popular pedestrian Istiklal Avenue (pictured) has injured a number of people
Social media users said shops were shuttered and the avenue closed down as forensic teams and emergency services moved in to examine the scene. But by evening, the avenue was buzzing with tourists and onlookers and some shops stayed open in a show of defiance.
‘We are not afraid, we heard the explosion but we are open as long as the police don’t come and ask us to close,’ said Mustafa Guler, manager of the Keyif Nevizade restaurant in the neighbourhood.
‘When I heard the explosion, I was petrified, people froze, looking at each other. Then people started running away. What else can you do,’ said Mehmet Akus, 45, a restaurant worker on Istiklal.
‘My relatives called me, they know I work on Istiklal. I reassured them,’ he told Reuters.
A helicopter flew above the scene and a number of ambulances were parked in nearby Taksim Square. The Turkish Red Crescent said blood was being transferred to nearby hospitals.
Vice President Oktay said: ‘We are evaluating it as an act of terror’.
If confirmed, it would be the first major bomb blast in Istanbul in several years.
Twin bombings outside an Istanbul soccer stadium in December 2016 killed 38 people and wounded 155 in an attack claimed by an offshoot of the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.
Condemnations of the attack and condolences for the victims rolled in from several countries.
A reaction came quickly from Greece, which ‘unequivocally’ condemned the blast and expressed condolences to the government and people of Turkey.
The United States also denounced it, with White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre saying: ‘We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our NATO Ally Turkey in countering terrorism.’
EU Commission President Charles Michel also offered condolences to Turkey, tweeting: ‘My thoughts are with the victims & their families.’
A picture posted to twitter showed a pram on the floor after the explosion
The road was full of locals and tourists when the explosion occurred earlier this afternoon
People leave the area after an explosion on Istanbul’s popular pedestrian Istiklal Avenue Sunday, Istanbul, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022
Speaking in the aftermath of the attack, Istanbul governor Ali Yerlikaya said: ‘According to initial reports, 4 people lost their lives and 38 were injured in the explosion that took place on Istiklal Street. Our wounded are being treated.
‘We wish God’s mercy on those who lost their lives and a speedy recovery to the injured. Developments will be shared with the public.’
Eyewitness Cemal Denizci was on the street when he heard the explosion. ‘I saw three or four people on the ground,’ he told AFP.
‘People were running in panic… There was black smoke. The noise was so strong, almost deafening,’ he said.
Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu said on Twitter: ‘My condolences to those who lost their lives in the explosion on Istiklal Avenue.’
Turkey was hit by a string of deadly bombings between 2015 and 2017 by the so-called Islamic State group and outlawed Kurdish groups.
The very same street that suffered today’s attack was previously targeted by a suicide bomber in 2016. Five people, including the bomber, died in that incident.
Members the crime scene investigation police work after a strong explosion of unknown origin shook the busy shopping street of Istiklal in Istanbul, on November 13, 2022
A young boy affected by the blast is cared for after the deadly explosion on Istiklal street
The area of the blast on Istiklal street has been cordoned off and is being scoured by a forensic team
Members of the security forces stand near the scene and block the street after the explosion
A team of forensics have been pictured gathering evidence on the scene
Armed police are guarding the scene of the explosion that injured dozens
Police officers and rescue members work after an explosion on busy pedestrian Istiklal street in Istanbul
The Turkish Super League match, which was supposed to be played between Besiktas and Antalyaspor at Istanbul Vodafone Park this evening, was postponed due to the explosion in Taxim
Footage sent to Middle East Eye from the scene reportedly showed the bodies of one child and one man mortally wounded.
‘There are strong suspicions that this was a suicide bomb, but we don’t have any official statement yet,’ Al Jazeera’s Sinem Koseoglu said from Istanbul.
Bellingcat, the fact-checking and open-source intelligence agency, has shared CCTV footage from today which shows a bag left on a bench that could have been the source of the explosion.
Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office banned sharing footage of the blast. A statement issued by the office read: ‘Due to the explosion in Istiklal Street today, an investigation has been started by our Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office and five public prosecutors have been appointed for that purpose.
‘In addition, a broadcast ban was issued by the Istanbul Criminal Court of Peace for all visual and audio news and social networking sites related to the explosion.’
Some Turkish users said they were unable to access Twitter without a VPN.
Meanwhile the Turkish Football Federation announced that a match scheduled on Sunday evening between Beşiktaş and Fraport TAV Antalyaspor has been postponed following the explosion.
Istanbul attacker detonated bomb on Istiklal Avenue in 2016 killing five
In March 2016 a bomb was detonated on the same street in Istanbul, Istiklal Avenue, as the explosion today.
It is believed ISIS was behind the attack – which killed five people (including perpetrator) and injured thirty, including seven whose injuries were severe.
According to an eyewitness, the bomber detonated the bomb whilst passing by a group of tourists
The bombing was the fourth suicide bombing in Turkey in 2016 and occurred six days after a bombing in Ankara that left 37 people dead.
CCTV footage captures the horrifying moment a woman waved goodbye to her friend moments before the Istanbul attacker detonated his bomb just metres away from her.
The female shopper appeared to be laughing and joking with her companion as she turned to say goodbye before heading towards a shop on one of the Turkish city’s busiest streets.
Moments later, a large explosion rips through the busy street, which is lined with international stores and shopping centres.