Six people killed in bomb attack in central Istanbul

A bomb ripped through one of Istanbul’s busiest streets on Sunday, killing six people and wounding 53, said Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who hinted the blast might be an act of terrorism.

The explosion occurred at 4.20pm on Istiklal Avenue, a pedestrianised street lined with restaurants, shops and consulates. Tens of thousands of people, including tourists, visit the area each day.

“Our state is working to expose the perpetrators of this treacherous attack. Efforts to force Turkey and the Turkish people’s surrender to terrorism will not succeed,” Erdoğan told reporters in televised comments.

“It might be wrong to call this terrorism [yet] but the initial information I have received from the governor has the smell of terrorism . . . The first indications are that a woman played a role in this,” he said.

Istiklal Avenue was the site of a suicide bombing blamed on Islamic State in March 2016 that killed five people, including two Israeli-Americans. That attack was one of a spate of bombings that began ahead of the November 2015 election that left hundreds of people dead.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility for Sunday’s attack, the deadliest bombing in Istanbul since late 2016. Kurdish militants have previously staged bomb attacks in Turkey’s biggest city.

Turkey is due to hold presidential and parliamentary elections in June next year. The attack could also threaten Turkey’s crisis-hit economy, which relies on tourism for tens of billions of dollars of foreign currency inflows.

One video posted on 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 pram, with chunks of concrete strewn about.

Authorities issued a reporting ban on television and radio channels on Sunday, instructing them to only report official statements to prevent “turmoil in society that may serve terrorist organisations’ purposes”, said the communications directorate.

Access to Twitter and other social media sites was also sporadic, and Istanbul’s chief prosecutor said in a statement that an investigation had been launched into “posts of negative news on social media accounts” about the attack.

Turkey last month enacted a “disinformation law” that includes prison sentences of up to three years for social media posts that are deemed a threat to national security or public health.

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