A Syrian suicide bomber is thought to be responsible for an attack which killed at least ten people including foreigners in the heart of Istanbul’s historic Sultanahmet tourist district on Tuesday, President Tayyip Erdogan said.
There was a high probability Islamic State militants were behind the blast near the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, major tourist sites in the center of one of the world’s most visited cities, two senior Turkish security officials told Reuters.
Several bodies lay on the ground in the Sultanahmet square in the immediate aftermath of the blast. A police officer and witness at the scene also reported seeing several body parts.
An official at the German foreign ministry said it was urgently working to find out whether German citizens were among the wounded. A tour company official told Reuters a German group was in the area at the time but said there was no immediate information on whether any of them had been injured.
Norway‘s foreign ministry said one Norwegian man was injured and was being treated in hospital. The Dogan news agency said six German citizens and one Peruvian were also wounded.
“I condemn the terror incident in Istanbul assessed to be an attack by a suicide bomber with Syrian origin. Unfortunately we have 10 dead including foreigners and Turkish nationals,” Erdogan told a lunch for Turkish ambassadors in Ankara, in a speech broadcast live on television.
“This incident has once again showed that as a nation we should act as one heart, one body in the fight against terror. Turkey’s determined and principled stance in the fight against terrorism will continue to the end,” he said.
Turkey, a NATO member and candidate for accession to the European Union, is part of a U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State fighters who have seized territory in neighboring Syria and Iraq.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility but Islamist, leftist and Kurdish militants, who are battling Ankara in southeast Turkey, have all carried out attacks in the past.
The Istanbul governor’s office said the authorities were investigating the type of explosive used and who might have been responsible. It said ten people were killed and 15 wounded but gave no further details.
“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.