At least 10 foreigners, most of them German tourists, were killed and 15 others injured in a terrorist attack (watch the video clip) by an Islamic State (IS) bomber on Tuesday in the main tourist hub of Turkey’s largest city Istanbul.
Nabil Fadli, a 28-year-old IS militant of Syrian origin who was born in Saudi Arabia in 1988, blew himself up after blending into a group of 33 German tourists on a visit to the Obelisk of Theodosius in Sultanahmet Square near the Blue Mosque when the popular square was relatively less crowded compared with the rest of the day.
Among the injured were at least six Germans, one Norwegian, one Peruvian and a South Korean.
Tourist sites including the Hagia Sophia and the nearby Basilica Cistern were closed by the Istanbul Governor’s Office following the attack.
The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) imposed a temporary media ban for the coverage of the explosion after the demand from the Prime Ministry, Zaman Today newspaper said.
“The suicide bomber was identified as a Syrian born in 1988 following an inspection of a shredded body, and an investigation has been launched into those who have links to the perpetrator,” said Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş at a press conference in Ankara after a security meeting headed by the Turkish premier regarding the deadly attack.
Kurtulmuş said at a separate press conference later that the perpetrator was revealed to have recently infiltrated Turkey from Syria.
Tourist guide Sibel Şatıroğlu shouted “lauft weg!” (Run away) before the attack and averted more deaths among the tourist group that was visiting the Obelisk, a historic statue erected 1,626 years ago during the Byzantine era.
In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel called on the international community to be resolute in the fight against terrorism, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
“International terrorism has once again showed itself, with its horrible and inhuman face,” Merkel told a news conference in Berlin following earlier media reports that said Germans were among the victims of the blast.
“This attack also shows us the necessity to confront terrorism in a resolute way,” she said
Turkey is on edge after a series of deadly attacks blamed on the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group including a double suicide bombing in the capital Ankara in October that left 103 people dead.
‘The ground shook’
The explosion was powerful enough to be heard in adjacent neighborhoods, witnesses said. Police cordoned off the area to shocked passers-by and tourists and the nearby tram service was halted.
“The explosion was so loud, the ground shook. there was a very heavy smell that burned my nose,” a German tourist named Caroline said.
“I started running away with my daughter. We went into a nearby building and stayed there for half an hour. It was really scary,” she added.
“The explosion was very loud. We shook a lot. We ran out and saw body parts,” one woman who works at a nearby antiques store told a Reuters correspondent, declining to give her name.
Media reports said the blast took place at 8.20 GMT around the Obelisk of Theodosius, a monument from ancient Egypt which was re-erected by the Roman Emperor Theodosius and is one of the city’s most eye-catching monuments.
Ambulances rushed to the site, which is close to the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia in Sultanahmet.
A large number of fire-fighting trucks, medical teams and bomb disposal teams were dispatched to the area, and a police helicopter was seen circling overhead at the site.
The wounded have been taken to Haseki Training and Research Hospital and nearby hospitals.
A police vehicle heading to the area where the explosion took place overturned near Sultanahmet tram station.
Police sealed off the central square after the blast, barring people from approaching it in case of a second explosion.
“We’re taking precautions against a second explosion,” the police officer said.
Tram operations between Beyazıt and Eminönü have been suspended and the square has been closed to traffic.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and Interior Minister Efkan Ala met at the Prime Ministry’s office to discuss the incident.
Kurdish, leftist and Islamist militants have all carried out attacks in Turkey in the past.