Turkey said Kurdish militant group PKK and its U.S.-backed affiliates in Syria were behind a Sunday bomb attack in Istanbul’s popular tourist district that left at least six people dead and 81 wounded, identifying the captured bomber suspect as a Syrian national.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu blamed the autonomy-seeking PKK and the Syria-based PYD for the explosion in the middle of Istiklal Street, which is lined with bars, cafes and shops.
He went on to chide Washington for supporting the PYD, which the U.S. partnered with to confront Islamic State in Syria. The Turkish government says the group is an extension of the PKK, which is labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S. and European Union.
Turkish news channel NTV reported Monday that the suspected perpetrator of the attack was a Syrian-origin woman and had “confessed” her links to the PKK/PYD, citing the Istanbul security directorate.
A message of condolence sent by the U.S. should be viewed as “the murderer returning to the crime scene,” Soylu said, adding that Turkey rejected the message.
“We will respond heavily to this attack,” he said.
PKK denied responsibility in a statement published by pro-Kurdish ANF news agency’s website on Monday.
Investigators believe a parcel bomb was planted on a bench by a female suspect, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said Sunday, adding that the explosion took place just two minutes after the suspect left the area, according to footage of the scene.
The minister said on Monday that 46 people had been detained so far as part of the investigation.
The order for the attack was given from Kobani, Soylu said, referring to a Kurdish border town in Syria that is home to senior members of the PYD and its armed wing YPG. Those groups control about a third of Syria, which the Turkish government considers to be a national security risk.
The bombing came as NATO member Turkey continues to insist on the full cooperation of Sweden and Finland in combating the PKK and Kurdish militants in Syria before approving their bids to join the military alliance. Both Nordic countries have repeatedly condemned terrorism and said they do not support the Kurdish groups.
The attack, which underscores the threat of a resurgence in terrorism in one of the Middle East’s biggest economies, also came as Turkey prepares for presidential and parliamentary elections in about six months.
“The international community should know that terrorist attacks against our civilians are the direct and indirect consequences of some countries’ support for terrorist organizations,” Fahrettin Altun, communications director of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday.
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