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Turkish Authorities: Islamic State Responsible for Istanbul Suicide Attack

A suicide explosion killed and injured tourists and Turks in Istanbul Tuesday. Officials say a Syrian was responsible.

Turkish police cordon off the Blue Mosque area on January 12, 2016 after a blast in Istanbul's tourist hub of Sultanahmet left 10 people dead.
Ten people were killed and 15 wounded in a suspected terrorist attack on January 12 in the main tourist hub of Turkey's largest city Istanbul, officials said. A powerful blast rocked the Sultanahmet neighbourhood which is home to Istanbul's biggest concentration of monuments and and is visited by tens of thousands of tourists every day.
 / AFP / OZAN KOSE        (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
Turkish police cordon off the Blue Mosque area on January 12, 2016 after a blast in Istanbul's tourist hub of Sultanahmet left 10 people dead. Ten people were killed and 15 wounded in a suspected terrorist attack on January 12 in the main tourist hub of Turkey's largest city Istanbul, officials said. A powerful blast rocked the Sultanahmet neighbourhood which is home to Istanbul's biggest concentration of monuments and and is visited by tens of thousands of tourists every day. / AFP / OZAN KOSE (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)

At least 10 people are dead and 15 injured after a suicide bomber detonated himself Tuesday in Istanbul’s famed Sultanahmet Square, one of the city’s most popular tourist destinations.

According to Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, a foreign Islamic State fighter is responsible for the attack. His late afternoon announcement comes amid conflicting reports from Turkish officials and media outlets. In a public address following the attack, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the bomber was a Syrian man in his 20s and speculated that the Islamic State was responsible. Turkish officials also said they used the bomber’s scattered remains to identify him as Syrian, though his name has not yet been released.

But Turkish media outlets later reported the bomber has been identified as Saudi-born Nabil Fadli. Erdogan also didn’t rule out the possibility the attacker represented the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which he said continues to pose a threat to Turkish national security.

“Turkey is the primary target for all terrorist organizations active in the region,” Erdogan said. “Turkey will continue its determined and principled fight against terrorism until the very end.”

According to the Dogan News Agency, at least six Germans, one Norwegian, and one Peruvian were among the injured. Other information was not immediately available, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she believed Germans may have also been killed in the attack. Some reports indicate the majority of victims may be German. 

“We are very concerned that German citizens could be and probably will be among the victims,” she told a press conference in Berlin.

Separately, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told reporters at a different news conference that Berlin is assuming Germans were injured in the attack but “also can’t exclude that Germans are among the dead.”

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond tweeted that the United Kingdom is anxiously awaiting more information from the Turkish government.

This is the latest in a series of terrorist attacks in Turkey. A year ago, a woman was killed in Sultanahmet Square after she approached a police station near the city’s famous Blue Mosque and blew herself up. And last October, about 100 people were killed and hundreds more injured in the Turkish capital of Ankara after a pair of suicide bombers detonated themselves at a crowded peace rally. The attack was the deadliest in Turkish history and deeply rattled the already fragile state.

Turkey is housing millions of refugees fleeing the bloody civil war in Syria next door. It is also grappling with internal unrest, including against the PKK, a left-wing Kurdish insurgency that has spent decades battling the Turkish government.

On Tuesday, Merkel put the bombing on par with attacks that have recently taken place elsewhere in Europe and North Africa.

“Today, Istanbul was hit; Paris has been hit; Tunisia has been hit; Ankara has been hit before,” she said. “International terrorism is once again showing its cruel and inhuman face today.”

Additionally, some 40 people were killed in two separate blasts in Iraq — including one at a Baghdad mall in a Shiite neighborhood — on Monday.

And Erdogan used his televised address to denounce foreign writers, including Noam Chomsky, who have publicly criticized his administration.

“Pick a side,” he said. “You are either on the side of the Turkish government, or you’re on the side of the terrorists.”

Photo credit: OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images

Siobhán O’Grady is a freelance journalist working across sub-Saharan Africa. She previously worked as a staff writer at Foreign Policy. @siobhan_ogrady

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