An explosion that killed at least six people and injured at least 81 others in Istanbul on Sunday was deemed a terrorist attack, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said, according to the official Anadolu news agency.
“We consider this to be an act of terrorism following an attacker, who we consider to be a woman, who detonated the bomb,” Oktay told reporters on Sunday.
The explosion occurred on Istiklal Street in Beyoglu Square, in the heart of Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya said.
“We wish God’s mercy to those who lost their lives and a speedy recovery to the injured,” Yerlikaya tweeted.
The six people killed include Yusuf Meydan, a member of Turkey’s Ministry of Family and Social Services, and his daughter Ecrin, according to Derya Yanık, the agency’s minister.
Earlier on Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the explosion could be linked to terrorism, but he was not sure yet.
“It may be wrong if we say it’s definitely about terror, but according to the preliminary findings, what my governors have told us, there is a smell of terror here,” Erdogan said during a briefing. ‘a press conference.
He said authorities were reviewing CCTV footage.
“All those responsible will be identified and punished,” the president said.
Erdogan said he and his delegation would continue with their plans to attend the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia.
The Istanbul Prosecutor General’s Office has opened an investigation, the country’s official Anadolu news agency reported. At least eight prosecutors have been appointed, the vice president told reporters.
The city’s criminal court banned the dissemination of all visual and audio information, as well as on social media sites, related to the blast, Anadolu added.
Local media reports and footage from the area showed a large number of emergency vehicles following the blast. Some people could be seen fleeing the scene and the area was cordoned off by security services.
A witness, journalist Tariq Keblaoui, told CNN he was in a store on Istiklal Street when the explosion happened about 10 meters in front of him.
He said several people could be seen lying on the ground after the explosion.
The extent of injuries to those he saw were unclear, but several people were bleeding from their legs and arms, Keblaoui said.
He said Istiklal Street, a popular tourist area, was busy on Sunday. Istiklal Street is one of the main streets leading to Taksim Square.
Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu called for help from teams of police and health workers to respond to the blast.
“It is essential to help our police and health teams regarding the Istiklal Street explosion and to avoid messages that could cause fear and panic. All the teams concerned are in the area, we will provide information healthy,” he tweeted.
News of the explosion was met with international dismay.
“Horrible news from Istanbul tonight. Condolences to the victims of the Istiqlal explosion,” European Council President Charles Michel said. “Our hearts go out to those currently responding and to the people of Türkiye in this very difficult time.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg tweeted its “deepest condolences” to the Turkish people, adding that NATO “stands in solidarity with our ally” Turkey.
Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen expressed his “sincere condolences to the people of Turkey and the citizens of Istanbul”, adding: “Given the horrific explosion this afternoon in the heart of Beyoğlu, my heart goes out to the families of the victims. I wish a speedy recovery to all injured.
Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said: “Italy expresses its closeness to the Turkish government and people and its sincere condolences for the innocent victims. Our crisis unit monitors the situation and contacts our compatriots.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted of his “deep sadness” at the news of the explosion. “I offer my condolences to the families of those who lost their lives and wish a speedy recovery to those injured,” Zelensky said. “The pain of the friendly Turkish people is our pain.”