Bombs Targeting Turkish Police Kill 29 in Istanbul
By VOA News December 10, 2016
Two explosions were touched off near a huge soccer stadium late Saturday in Istanbul. Witnesses and authorities said the attacks – a car bombing and a suicide blast – were aimed at security officers two hours after a match ended.
Authorities said the blasts targeted a bus carrying riot police from the Besiktas Vodafone Arena, on the shore of the Bosphorus. Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said the explosions killed 29 people and injured 166 others. Two civilians were among those killed, and the rest were police officers.
Reuters quoted Soylu as saying that the car bomb had been detonated by remote control.
There was no claim of responsibility. Soylu said 10 people had been arrested in connection with the bombing.
Ambulances converged on the scene after the first blast, and police helicopters soon hovered overhead, beaming searchlights onto the scene below.
Turkey's government instituted a news blackout on details of the attack and its aftermath, citing national security and public order concerns. However, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, speaking on national television, later confirmed the attack had centered on "a cruel plot" launched by a suicide bomber.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a statement that the attack had targeted police and "aimed to maximize casualties."
The presidential statement described the bombings as an act of terrorism and said that "as a result of these attacks, unfortunately, we have martyrs and wounded."
A VOA reporter in Istanbul, Dorian Jones, said the nature of the attack – targeting police after the match ended, rather than masses of spectators – suggested it might have been staged by outlawed Kurdish militants. Both Jones and NTV later said police also had detonated a suspicious package outside the stadium following the earlier blasts.
Turkey's most visible militant group, the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, has for decades battled the Turkish government for an autonomous homeland in Turkey's southeast.
The PKK is widely known for periodic attacks on Turkish security forces. But unlike the Islamic State group, which routinely targets civilians, the Kurdish militants are equally known for avoiding attacks on Turkey's civilian population.
Istanbul has been the scene of several bombings this year, including a June attack at Atatürk Airport that killed more than 40 people. More than 200 people have died this year throughout the country in attacks blamed on Islamic State militants or Kurdish factions inside Turkey.
Islamic State was also blamed for an August 20 bombing at a wedding party in the south-central Turkish city of Gaziantep, near the Syrian border. More than 50 people were killed in that attack and scores of others were wounded.
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