Update: Here is the latest CCTV footage of the attack. Caution: graphic.
For the fourth time this year and the second time in seven days, one of Turkey’s major cities has been hit with a deadly suicide bombing.
Just six days after an explosion ripped through a transit hub in Ankara’s Kizilay neighborhood killing 34 people and wounding more than 100, a bustling shopping street in Istanbul was shaken by a powerful blast on Saturday.
The death toll now stands at 5 and frankly, it probably would have been much, much worse had the blast come later in the day. “The attack took place on Istiklal Caddesi, a pedestrian street that was relatively quiet Saturday morning but is usually thronged with shoppers, strollers and buskers later in the day,” AFP reports. “The street, which adjoins Taksim Square in the European part of the city, was evacuated after the attack.”
The area is extremely popular with tourists. The TAK - the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons - have warned foreigners about supporting the country's tourism industry which the group says feeds the Erdogan regime.
"Tourism is one of the important sources feeding the dirty and special war, so it is a major target we aim to destroy," the group said flatly, after last weekend's bombing which was carried out by a 24-year-old female student and apparent TAK sympathizer named by the group as Seher Cagla Demir. "We warn the foreign and native tourists not to go to the tourist ... areas in Turkey.
It wasn't just the TAK warning tourists. The US embassy in Ankara cautioned American citizens that more attacks could be forthcoming ahead of Kurdish Nevruz.
CCTV caught the moment of Saturday's blast:
Istanbul terror attack pic.twitter.com/APC3uSnLyt— Malcolmite (@Malcolmite) March 19, 2016
Authorities say at least three dozen people were injured, seven of which are in critical condition.
The Kurdish New Year (March 21) is expected to be a dangerous time in Turkey. Erdogan has stepped up the military siege on Kurdish enclaves in the southeast and the PKK and TAK have responded in kind. Cities like Cizre have been reduced nearly to rubble and look more like Aleppo than they do like Turkish urban centers. Erdogan is also irate about Syrian Kurds' move to declare federalism on Turkey's southern border. Here are images from the aftermath of today's attack:
And here's a Google street view, which should give you an idea of what kind of targets are being hit in Turkey.
Expect either the PKK or the TAK to be blamed/claim the attack in fairly short order. This is a self-fulfilling prophecy and it was set in motion intentionally by Erdogan in the wake of last June's elections. The more Kurdish-linked attacks there are, the more excuses Ankara has to crack down on the Kurds.
The President will use this as still more evidence of why the definition of "terrorist" needs to be expanded, why Kurdish strongholds in the southeast must be kept under curfew, why HDP lawmakers should be stripped of their immunity, and, ultimately, why the powers of the presidency need to be expanded.
It's all very simple, you see. Don't you get it now?...