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Terror strikes the tourist heart of Istanbul with an attack that leaves six dead and 81 injured

Medical teams help the injured and transfer the fatalities in the Istiklal explosion. / REUTERS

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan explains that “a man and a woman” have been involved in the “vile attack”

Terror emptied today Istiklal, Istanbul’s Independence Avenue, the shopping street par excellence that is a must on every traveler’s itinerary. After four in the afternoon, a strong explosion hit the heart of this avenue and panic seized those present. At least 6 people lost their lives and more than 80 were injured, according to the latest official balance from the Turkish authorities.

Nobody wanted to say the word terrorism and the first to do so was the president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “Maybe I’m wrong, but the first events, added to the first information that the governor of Istanbul, Ali Yerlikaya, has given me, indicate that this smacks of terrorism,” said the president before describing what happened as “a vile attack.” .

Shortly after, with the investigation already underway, Erdogan pointed out that the security forces are working to identify those responsible for this “treacherous attack” and “those who are behind it.” The president insisted that “attempts to make Turkey surrender through terror have never been successful and never will be.”

Together with Erdogan, it was the vice president, Fuat Oktay, who took on the task of reporting the facts. “We consider that it is a terrorist attack due to the detonation of a bomb by an assailant who is believed to be a woman, according to the first information,” Oktay said, without clarifying whether the woman blew herself up or activated the bomb. from distance. Erdogan’s number two warned that “whoever is behind this we will catch him in the end, even if he is on the other side of the world, outside our borders.”

Five years without attacks

At press time, no group had claimed responsibility for the attack. In 2016, terror already hit Istiklal in the form of a suicide attack and five people died, including two US citizens, and 36 were injured. The Interior Ministry then assured that it was a suicide bomber linked to the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group. Between 2015 and 2017 both the IS and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) committed several attacks on Turkish soil and six years later the Ottoman media once again point in these directions in search of culprits.

The last big attack in Istanbul was on January 1, 2017 at the Reina club and 37 people lost their lives in an operation taken over by IS. A terrorist broke into the premises with an assault submachine gun in the middle of the New Year’s Eve celebration. Since then the city remained safe from the hand of terror, although without lowering security measures.

The security forces sealed all access to the place and restricted access to social networks such as Twitter, Instagram, YouTube or Facebook, as is usual in the country when something of this type occurs. A court in Istanbul declared the “information blackout”, following the anti-terrorism protocol in Turkey.

political unit

Istiklal is a lung of life in the center of the city that descends from Taksim Square to the Bosphorus. The presence of tourists is so intense that sometimes the avenue seems like a kind of demonstration of travelers passing in front of the endless succession of shop windows. Hours after the attack, groups of tourists crowded in front of the fences deployed by the Police, unable to believe what had happened. This type of attack can happen to anyone, it is the lottery of terror.

The Turkish political parties, immersed in an endless campaign ahead of next summer’s elections in which Erdogan is playing for the Presidency, came together to condemn what happened. “To our citizens who have lost their lives, I wish God’s mercy and a speedy recovery to those who have been injured,” Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kiliçdaroglu posted on Twitter. The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) expressed its “deep pain and sorrow over the explosion”.

Condemnations were also issued from abroad and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement to “absolutely reject any form of terrorist violence.”

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