At least 53 people were wounded in the attack, Erdogan said, in remarks to reporters shortly before departing Turkey Sunday. “If we say that this is terror it might be wrong but with the initial developments and with the information that my Governor has relayed to us, there is the smell of terror,” he said, adding that there were “initial” reports a woman fleeing the scene had played some role.
Turkey over the last decade has been a frequent target for attacks, carried out by militants from the Islamic State extremist group or Kurdish militants, among others. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the explosion Sunday, and the authorities did not name any suspects.
Ali Yerlikaya, the regional governor of Istanbul, said in a message posted on Twitter that the explosion occurred shortly after 4 p.m. local time. It was audible for miles around, in a neighborhood that contains tourist attractions and shops that are a magnet for the millions of tourists who have visited Istanbul as fears over travel, because of the coronavirus pandemic, have begun to subside.
Unverified videos shared on social media footage showed what appeared to be several bodies lying on the ground, on a stretch of Istiklal near Istanbul’s Taksim Square. Ambulances could be seen racing from the scene shortly after the explosion through throngs of tourists. Istanbul’s mayor, Ekrem Imamoglu, appealed for calm on social media and called on people to assist authorities at the site.
Istiklal Street, sometimes called Istanbul’s Champs-Elysées, was the site of a suicide bombing in March 2016 that killed five people, including two U.S. nationals, and injured dozens more. Every day of the week, the avenue is filled with people — Turkish citizens, and tourists from a multitude of countries — strolling or visiting large chain stores that have outlets on Istiklal Street, as well as a handful of shopping malls.
Timsit reported from London.