Suicide Bomb Goes Off In Busy Tourist Section Of Istanbul

CREDIT: AP Photo/Emrah Gurel

Security forces secure the area near the scene of an explosion in Istanbul, Turkey, Saturday, March 19, 2016. An explosion on Istanbul’s main pedestrian shopping street on Saturday has killed a number of people and injured over a dozen others.

A suicide bomber struck a bustling shopping area in central Istanbul on Saturday, killing at least five people and wounding 36, city officials say.

The explosion hit part of Istiklal Street, a long and busy street lined with cafes, shops, and restaurants — an area similar to New York’s Fifth Avenue, according to Al Jazeera.

“The explosion was not so big but I felt it in my heart because our people died.” a man who owns a cafe near the site of the explosion told the Associated Press. “They want a war but our people want peace.”

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. The suspected suicide bomber is among those dead, according to Istanbul’s governor Vasip Sahin.

Turkey’s health minister, Mehmet Muezzinoglu, confirmed that 36 people had been injured and twelve of the wounded were foreign citizens.

“We as a nation are unfortunately now face to face with a situation of unlimited, immeasurable acts that are inhumane, defy human values and are treacherous,” he said.

Saturday’s strike is the latest in a string of deadly attacks in Turkey. Less than a week ago, a car bomb detonated in the heart of Ankara, the nation’s capital, killing at least 37 people. In January, an explosion in Istanbul’s main tourist area killed 13 people, and in October, the country saw its largest terrorist attack, when more than 100 people died in twin suicide bombings at a pro-Kurdish peace rally in Ankara. The spate of attacks has raised alarm in a country that has long been a popular tourist destination, and where political violence has largely been limited to peripheral and border regions.

Turkey is currently engaged in fighting on multiple fronts. The country is battling the Islamic State in neighboring Syria and has long been embroiled in conflict with Kurdish forces within its own borders. Since the collapse of a ceasefire between the Turkish government and the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, or PKK, last July, violent clashes between the two groups have escalated. As ThinkProgress previously reported, Turkey’s conflict with the Kurds has important implications not only for the fight against ISIS, but for the country’s relationships with its NATO allies.

On Saturday morning, the hashtag #PrayforTurkey trended on Twitter.

“Saddened, shocked by explosion on Istiklal,” the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul told The Wall Street Journal. “We mourn with families of the lost, and we wish the injured a speedy recovery.”