29 killed, 166 injured in Istanbul explosions
ISTANBUL, TURKEY – Twenty-nine people were killed and 166 wounded in Saturday’s twin bombings in Istanbul, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said in a press conference Sunday. Twenty-seven of those killed were police officers, Soylu added. Six of the victims are in intensive care.
Ten suspects have been detained in connection with the bombings, the minister said.
[Previous update posted at 7:43 p.m. ET]
At least 15 people were killed and 69 injured Saturday night in twin explosions in Istanbul, a senior Turkish official who can’t be named due to government protocol told reporters.
The explosions, one large blast followed by a smaller one, occurred about 11 p.m. local time (3 p.m. ET) after a heavily attended football game at Besiktas Vodafone Arena.
The blasts targeted police, state news agency TRT reported, but none of the victims have been identified.
The first explosion at Macka Park was considered a suicide attack,Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said, according to state news agency Anadolu. He didn’t say what caused the second explosion, which occurred near the arena. The two locations are less than a mile apart.
Soylu had earlier said a car bomb was the source of an explosion, according to Turkish state news agency TRT. However, it wasn’t clear to which blast he was referring.
Turkish President Erdogan, an ally to the United States in the fight against ISIS, issued a statement saying Istanbul had once again “witnessed the ugliest face of terror stepping on all values and morals. … Together with the help of Allah, as a country and a nation, we will overcome terror, terror organizations, terrorists and the … powers behind them.”
No group has claimed responsibility for the twin bombings but ISIS and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) have staged attacks in Turkey over the past year.
Video showed a chaotic scene outside Besiktas Vodafone Arena as police converged on the area and emergency medical workers loaded victims into ambulances. Several blocks away, police towed cars parked at Taksim Square, a popular tourist area, as a precaution.
Istanbul’s team Besiktas had played Bursaspor in a Turkey League game that night at the football arena. The arena, which seats more than 40,000 people, had been renovated and reopened in April.
The Bursaspor football club issued a statement saying the explosion happened “close to the away team stands where our supporters were. We have received the news that around five minutes before the explosion took place, our supporters left the premises.”
Christopher James, a freelance writer and teacher living in Istanbul, told CNN he was at a hotel not far from the arena when the blasts occurred.
“We could hear and see the boom, and then after the boom the sound came back towards us,” he said. “It sounded like gunshots reverberating and then my phone started buzzing like crazy.”
Ramazan Hakki Oztan, a historian from Istanbul who was attending a casual gathering near the arena, also saw the explosions.
“We were at this hotel with this nice view of the old city by Taksim Square,” he said. “We saw this huge explosion that happened by the stadium … and 10 seconds or 15 seconds after there was another explosion. … The second bomb was smaller in size.”
He said he was near the arena earlier in the day and noticed a heavy police presence.
“I think they targeted the cops that were out there by the stadium who were protecting the spectators,” he said.
Following the explosions, the US Consulate in Istanbul tweeted: “Please avoid the area, monitor local press reporting, and let friends and family know you are OK.”
A violent year
Turkey has weathered a string of terrorist attacks over the past year and is still reeling from a bloody but failed attempt at a military coup in July.
Erdogan declared a state of emergency following the coup attempt and authorities carried out a large number of arrests.