(Warning: This article contains some disturbing images. Reader discretion is advised)
Turkey’s economic and cultural capital Istanbul has been hit by suicide bombing, which has claimed at least five lives and injured 36 others, according to Reuters and reports emerging on social media.
In a statement released by Turkey’s health minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu, he claimed that at least 36 people were wounded as a result of the explosion, seven of whom were in serious condition.
The attack on Istanbul comes six days after a suicide car bombing in the capital city of Ankara that killed 35 people.
According to Al Jazeera, the explosion is believed to have hit the popular Istiklal Street in central Istanbul’s Taksim square area, which is a frequently visited place by both local and foreign tourists. The pedestrian boulevard is usually thronged with shoppers and strollers on the weekend and is lined with international fashion brands. The area has been completely cordoned off by police, as Turkey fears more attacks ahead of Kurdish New Year celebrations on Monday.
— Jenan Moussa (@jenanmoussa) March 19, 2016
Breaking News | Suicede bombing in İstanbul, Turkeypic.twitter.com/AoTJyciNL1
— REPORT | TURK (@reportturk) March 19, 2016
Although no organization has taken claim for the Istanbul bombing yet, Islamic State and Kurdish militant groups have repeatedly attacked Turkey over the course of the last few months. Since June, this is the fifth attack to have taken place in the Eurasian nation. A Kurdish militant group, an off-shoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, had previously claimed the Ankara attack, saying it was in revenge for Turkish military operations against Kurds.
According to reports, Turkey has been fighting on multiple fronts in Syria. As part of a U.S.-led coalition, it is battling the ISIS, which has seized territory in neighboring Syria and Iraq, while it is battling the PKK in its southeast, where a two-and-a-half-year ceasefire ended last July, prompting the worst violence since the 1990s.
Ever since first reports of the Istanbul suicide bombing began circulating on social media, the internet has been abuzz with pictures and reports about the incident. Some sources claim that the Turkish government has blocked social media, including sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram in the city, as well as having imposed a broadcast ban on the bombing, but that report remains unconfirmed as of this moment.
Images and videos of the incident have been circulating widely on social media. A CCTV captured footage of the incident shows the moment the bomb went off.
— Heval soro (@Zuttish) March 19, 2016
— Sandicapitano (@Sandicapitano) March 19, 2016
— KNIGHTHOOD INDIA™ (@Knighthoodindia) March 19, 2016
The explosion took place at the long pedestrian thoroughfare that winds its way through the Beyoglu neighbourhood from Taksim Square. According to reports, many foreign visitors are currently in the Turkish city for the final day of Istanbul Fashion Week.
Journalists on the ground say that Istanbul’s most upmarket shopping area was filled with pedestrians at the time of the explosion. The identities of the victims remain unknown at this early stage. Skin, the lead singer of the world-renown British band Skunk Anansie, witnessed the attack from her hotel.
“Beautiful Istanbul taken before the horrendous bomb blast that just went off outside our hotel. Many people injured, horrific scenes, building shook like paper. My heart goes out to the innocent people and their families caught up in this evil situation. We are ok, very shaken, city is in lockdown, plain clothes police with guns everywhere, scary times.”
Massive bomb blast outside our hotel, I'm ok, very shaken, people dead, awful scenes.
— skin (skunk anansie) (@skinskinny) March 19, 2016
— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) March 19, 2016
— Jasmine (@HeyImJasmineAli) March 19, 2016
This article will be updated once there is more information available on the Istanbul suicide attack.
[Image via YouTube]