A suicide bombing at a popular shopping area in Istanbul that killed at least five people, including three Israelis and two Americans, and wounded dozens more today may be tied to the Islamic State, according to media reports.
The blast targeted Istiklal Street, a major thoroughfare lined with international shopping outlets and restaurants that bustles with foreign tourists on weekends. Five people had been confirmed dead and at least 36 wounded, including 12 foreign nationals, the Hurriyet Daily News reported, citing comments from Turkish Health Minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu.
“The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms today’s terrorist attack in Istanbul,” Ned Price, a National Security Council spokesman, said in a statement released by the White House. “Two American citizens were among those killed in this heinous attack. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones of those killed, and we wish a speedy recovery to those injured.”
Price said that the United States remains steadfast in its support of Turkey and that the Obama administration is working with Turkish authorities. “These repeated acts of terrorism in Turkey must come to an end,” he said.
Two Israelis also were reportedly killed in the attack. Emmanuel Nahshon, a spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry, said one of the victims was a 60-year-old woman. The two were part of a group of 14 Israeli tourists on a culinary tour and had just finished eating breakfast. Eleven other Israelis were injured in the attack, some of them critically, Nahshon said.
The Dogan news agency, a private Turkish media outlet, reported that the wounded also included citizens of Germany, Iran and Ireland.
There were no immediate claims of responsibility, but Israeli media reported that the bomber had been identified as a Turkish national, Sabash Yildiz, 33, who was thought to be affiliated with the Islamic State.
Turkish armed forces have been waging cross-border strikes in Syria against the Islamic State, which has carried out bombings in Turkey in recent months.
One of the Islamic State attacks killed more than 100 people at a Kurdish peace rally in the capital, Ankara, in October. And the Islamic State was blamed for a suicide bombing in January that killed 10 people, including German tourists, in Istanbul.
Suspicion in the bombing had also fallen on Kurdish separatists who are waging a war in southeastern Turkey. That conflict has also been spilling over into urban areas, with bombings targeting Turkish soldiers and civilians in recent weeks.
Kurdish militants claimed responsibility for a car bomb last week that struck a square of shops and restaurants in the capital, Ankara, killing at least 37 people. And the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, asserted responsibility for an attack Feb. 17 in Ankara that killed 28 Turkish soldiers.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday night that Israel had decided to send two emergency planes with medical teams and supplies to Istanbul to help treat the wounded and fly them back to Israel.
“We are looking into the possibility that this terror attack was aimed at Israelis,” Netanyahu said at a news conference in Jerusalem.
He said that he had not spoken to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan since the attack but that the two governments were in contact and working together to enable Israeli teams to reach the area and assist the injured.
Turkey’s prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, said in a message to Israel that the attack “has shown us once again that the international community as a whole should act in a resolute manner against the ignoble objectives of terrorist organizations.” He expressed his condolences to the victims’ families.
(C) 2016 The Washington Post