Four dead as suicide bomb attack rocks Istanbul

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A suicide bomber hit a busy tourist area in central Istanbul on Saturday, killing at least four people, Turkey’s health minister said.

Thirty-six people were injured in the blast, Health Minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu told reporters. Seven are in critical condition and four were undergoing surgery.
“Those who kill are killing humanity,” Muezzinoglu said. “I condemn those who are killing humanity like this.”

Preliminary reports indicate 12 of those injured are from other countries, according to the minister.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon said that Israelis were among those hurt.

Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs will hold an emergency meeting on Saturday afternoon to assess the situation.
Since August 2014, Israel has advised its citizens to avoid nonessential travel to Turkey.

A number of Irish citizens were injured as well, according to Ireland’s foreign minister, Charlie Flanagan.
“I am deeply saddened by today’s horrific bomb attack in central Istanbul,” he said.

Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs has updated travel advice on Turkey, urging extreme caution as the terrorism threat remains extremely high.

Police cordoned off Taksim Square after the attack, as helicopters flew overhead and multiple ambulances gathered at the site.
Stunned shoppers ran away from the scene, some in tears.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

In a statement, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg condemned the attack as “yet another terrorist outrage targeting innocent civilians and our Ally Turkey.”
“There can be no justification for terrorism,” the statement said. “NATO Allies stand with Turkey, united in our determination to fight terrorism in all its forms.”

U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement, “This vicious attack is the latest in a series of indefensible violence targeting innocent people throughout Turkey — Turkish citizens and international visitors alike. These acts of terrorism only reinforce our determination to support all those across the region working to promote peace and reconciliation.”

The attack comes nearly a week after a car bomb ripped through a busy square in the capital of Ankara on March 13.

The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons — or TAK, a militant offshoot of the Kurdish separatist group, PKK — boasted that it was behind that bombing, which killed 37 people.
The group said on its website on Thursday that its militants struck “in the heart of [the] fascist Turkish republic.”

The PKK, or Kurdistan Worker’s Party, seeks an independent state in Turkey, and has been in an armed struggle with the government for decades.
The United States and EU have designated both it and the TAK as terrorist organizations.

A ceasefire between the PKK and Turkey fell apart last summer, after which Turkey bombed the terror group’s positions in northern Iraq while also imposing curfews in crackdowns on heavily Kurdish areas on southeastern Turkey.

Some residents have accused Turkey of unjust collective punishment, saying security forces have acted with impunity and killed civilians.

The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons specifically have been tied to a number of horrific attacks on their own.
This includes a February bombing targeting military vehicles in central Ankara that killed 28 people.

The TAK called that attack “revenge” for Turkish military actions and threatened more violence — warning foreigners, especially, to stay away from Turkey.

“Tourism is one of the important sources feeding the dirty and special war, so it is a major target we aim to destroy,” the TAK said then in an English-language statement. “We warn the foreign and native tourists not to go to the tourist … areas in Turkey.

“We are not responsible for who will die in the attacks targeting those areas,” the militant group said, adding that Turkey is unable “to save you and its own people.”

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