A bomb was placed inside a car and detonated as a bus carrying riot police passed during rush hour traffic in Istanbul today, killing seven police officers and four civilians, and leaving 36 wounded.
The explosion occurred on a busy intersection near an Istanbul University building, forcing officials to cancel exams. The blast caused the police bus to overturn from the force, and a nearby hotel was gutted and the windows were blown out - fortunately the hotel was closed and had no guests.
"Seven law enforcers and four civilians have died in the attack,” Istanbul Governor Vasip Sahin told reporters. “Thirty-six people have been injured, three are in critical condition.” Citing a police source, Turkish broadcaster NTV reported that some 14 people have been injured in the attack, eight law enforcers among them.
Foreign minister Melvut Cavusoglu condemned the attack, which occurred on the second day of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan. "They are cold-heartedly exploding bombs on a Ramadan day" Cavusoglu added. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, and Istanbul governor Vasip Sahin wouldn't comment on who may be behind the attack.
An Istanbul court has imposed a temporary ban on coverage of a number of details regarding the bomb attack, TASS reported, citing a statement from Turkey's Supreme Council for Radio and Television. The ban has been introduced in order to "maintain public order, protect territorial integrity and prevent crime." It concerns coverage of the ongoing investigation, footage showing the victims and those injured, police transcripts of talks, and demonstration of materials related to the suspects. The ruling covers all Turkish media. Similar measures were taken during previous terrorist attacks in Turkey.
A fresh wave of explosions has hit Turkish cities in recent months, including major urban areas.
A car stuffed with explosives detonated near military barracks in Istanbul in May, injuring eight people. The Turkish military blamed the attack on Kurdish fighters. In March, 37 people were killed in a bombing near public bus stops in the Turkish capital, Ankara.
As the WSJ explains
Tuesday’s attack was the fourth major bombing in Istanbul this year. Two of them targeting tourists and two hitting security forces. The spike in violence has led to a sharp dip in tourism, a mainstay of the economy.
The rebels of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, have been targeting police and military personnel with bombs since July, when a fragile peace process between the rebels and the government collapsed.
Islamic State group has also been blamed for a series of deadly bombings in Turkey, which is part of the U.S.-led coalition against IS.
An estimated 500 Turkish security personnel have been killed in attacks or in conflict with the Kurdish rebels, according to the military, which claims to have killed 4,900 PKK militants in operations in Turkey and northern Iraq, where the group has a major bastion. Turkish warplanes regularly raid PKK bases in northern Iraq.
Limited access to conflict areas in the southeast has made it difficult to verify casualty figures.
The PKK is fighting for autonomy for Turkey’s Kurds in the southeast of the country. The decadeslong insurgency against the Turkish state is a conflict that has claimed 40,000 lives. The group is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey and its allies.
Last month, eight people were wounded in Istanbul after a car bomb similarly targeted a military vehicle near the entrance of a garrison as the evening rush hour began.
* * *