Deadly twin bomb attack strikes police in Istanbul
Istanbul — Two explosions struck Saturday night outside a major soccer stadium in Istanbul after fans had gone home, in an attack that caused fatalities and wounded at least 20 police officers, Turkish authorities said. A private television channel put the wounded at nearly 70.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a statement saying “unfortunately we have martyrs and wounded” but did not specify the number.
One of the blasts was thought to be a car bomb and the second appeared to have been caused by a suicide bomber.
Police cordoned off the area as smoke rose from behind the newly built Vodafone Arena Stadium, known colloquially as Besiktas Stadium after the local team and neighborhood. Witnesses also heard gunfire after the explosions.
The first and larger explosion took place about 10:30 p.m. after the home team Besiktas beat visitor Bursaspor 2-1 in the Turkish Super League. Erdogan said the timing of the attack aimed to claim as many lives as possible.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, who gave the initial casualty toll of 20 police officers, rushed from Ankara to Istanbul.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. This year, Istanbul has witnessed bombings attributed by authorities to the Islamic State group or claimed by Kurdish militants.
“It is thought to be a car bomb at a point where our special forces police were located, right after the match at the exit where Bursaspor fans” had earlier left, Soylu was quoted as saying by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency. “We have no information on the number of dead. God willing, we hope there won’t be any.”
Speaking later to reporters in Istanbul, he said the first explosion took place on a hill adjacent to and overlooking the stadium. The second explosion struck Macka Park and was believed to be a suicide bomb.
The private NTV channel reported that the target of the first attack was a bus for riot police and said nearly 70 wounded were taken to hospitals.
Television images showed more than a dozen ambulances on a street hugging the stadium and a police helicopter flying overhead with its searchlights on. The window glass of nearby buildings was shattered by the blasts and coated the pavement. Investigators, including Istanbul Police Chief Mustafa Caliskan, were quickly on the scene.
The Besiktas sports club “strongly condemned” terrorism and the attack in a statement posted on its website.
Bursaspor said none of the wounded were fans and issued a statement saying “we wish a speedy recovery to our wounded citizens.”
Turkey’s radio and television board issued a temporary coverage ban citing national security concerns. It said “to avoid broadcasts that can result in public fear, panic or chaos, or that will serve the aims of terrorist organizations.”
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and Istanbul Governor Vasip Sahin were also notified about the attack, Anadolu said.
Cinar Kiper in Istanbul contributed reporting.