ISTANBUL – A suicide attack on Istanbul’s main pedestrian shopping street Saturday killed five people, including two dual nationality Israeli-Americans and one Iranian citizen, and wounded several dozen others, in the sixth suicide bombing in Turkey in the past year.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu issued a statement saying there were several foreigners among the victims.
“Turkey has always said that terrorism has no religion, no language and no race and that terrorism has to be condemned no matter who the perpetrators are,” he said. “This sad event has shown once again how right our position is.”
There was no immediate claim of responsibility but suspicion fell on the Islamic State group and on Kurdish militants. DNA samples were taken from family members of two possible Islamic State militants who could be the bomber, the private Turkish Dogan news agency reported.
The explosion ripped through Istiklal Street, a popular destination for tourists and locals in a central neighborhood that is home to cafes, restaurants, foreign consulates and a government office. Istanbul Gov. Vasip Sahin said there were five fatalities, and investigations were still underway.
Police swiftly sealed off the area as ambulances and a forensic team rushed to the scene after the bombing about 11 a.m. Normally packed cafes were either closed or empty, with business owners making frantic calls to loved ones to assure them of their safety.
“It was one loud explosion,” said Muhammed Fatur, a Syrian who works at a butcher shop near the scene of the explosion. “Police came to the scene and sealed off the area.” The site remained off limits until shortly after sundown when tentative pedestrians and shopkeepers returned to inspect the damage.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed at least two of the victims were Israelis. An Israeli diplomat in Istanbul said the two also held American citizenship.
“We can sadly confirm that two Israeli civilians were killed and we might have a third fatality,” he said.
Israel was cooperating with other intelligence agencies to determine whether the attack was directed at Israelis specifically.
The majority of the Israelis caught up in the attack were on a culinary tour of the city, officials said. The group had just eaten breakfast nearby when the blast ripped through the street. Israeli media named one of the victims as 60-year-old Simha Damari, a mother of four, and said her husband was wounded in the attack.
Ned Price, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, confirmed two American citizens were among those killed in the Istanbul attack. Their identities were not released.
A group of Iranian tourists were also among the victims. Alireza Razmkhah, 45, was killed and his wife, Azan, and baby, Diana, were wounded, according to IRNA, the official Iranian news agency. An elderly woman also was wounded in the attack, but was in stable condition, the agency reported.
The attack coincided with a visit to Turkey by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. He condemned the “inhumane” act and offered his condolences to Turkey.