Istanbul Bomb Kills at Least Five, Hurts Dozens of Tourists

  • Attack strikes city's busiest street for pedestrian traffic
  • American citizens among victims; latest in string of attacks

A suicide bomb exploded on central Istanbul’s busiest pedestrian street on Saturday killing at least five people, including two U.S. citizens and the attacker, and injuring 39 people, mostly foreign tourists.

The blast occurred shortly before 11 a.m. just off Istiklal Caddesi, a mile-long avenue that stretches south from Taksim Square, a major entertainment area. Istanbul Governor Vasip Sahin said 24 of the wounded were foreigners. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

U.S. citizens Yonathan Suher and Avraham Goldman were killed, State Department spokesman John Kirby said in an e-mailed statement. Israeli authorities said the pair were dual U.S.-Israeli citizens. An Israeli woman and an Iranian man were also killed, Turkish and Israeli media said.

“The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms today’s terrorist attack in Istanbul,” Ned Price, a spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council, said in a statement. “These repeated acts of terrorism in Turkey must come to an end,” said Price, adding that the U.S. is in close touch with Turkish authorities.

String of Attacks

The explosion extended the string of attacks targeting Turkey’s urban centers since the middle of 2015. Six days ago, 37 people were killed in a suicide car bombing in Ankara claimed by TAK, a splinter group of the autonomy-seeking Kurdish PKK, with which the Turkish state is locked in a 30-year battle. TAK also claimed responsibility for a similar attack that killed 28 in the Turkish capital in February.

The German consulate and German School in Istanbul recently closed following rumors of bomb threats, prompting criticism from Sahin.

Turkey responded to Saturday’s attack by imposing a press ban, during which time social media also became inaccessible for many users, although Turks have become accustomed to using workarounds such as proxies and VPNs.

Turkish authorities haven’t yet named a suspect. Turkey has also been targeted by suicide bombers linked to the Islamic State. A suicide bomber tied to that group killed 11 Germans in January at a central Istanbul tourist site.

The ruling AK Party expelled one official from the Istanbul organization after she tweeted that she wished all the injured Israelis had died, according to the pro-government Yeni Safak newspaper.

After years of political tensions, an increase in Israeli visits has been a bright spot in an otherwise bleak stretch for Turkey’s tourist industry. January data shows a 68 percent increase in Israeli visitors to Turkey, to 11,891. That compares with a 57 percent decline in Russian tourists and a 6.4 percent decrease in foreign tourist arrivals overall.

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