A suicide attack in a storied tourist district of Istanbul has killed at least nine people and rocked a country where political violence has largely been limited to peripheral and border regions.
Istanbul’s governor said that 10 people were killed and 15 more were injured in Sultanahmet Square, home to famed tourist attractions like the Sultanahmet Mosque (also known as the Blue Mosque), Haggia Sophia, and Topkapi Palace, on Tuesday. Most of the victims were German nationals, according to Turkish daily Hurriyet.
The attacker was allegedly born in 1988 and recently entered the country from Syria, according to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş. Local media reported the identity of the attacker as a Saudi national named Nabil Fadli.
No group has claimed the attack yet, though the government initially banned media coverage of the attack.
A number of attacks targeted Turkey in 2015. A viral video of an explosion on 31 peaceful demonstrators in the border town of Suruç circulated the internet in July, while a twin bombing in the capital Ankara was the worst in Turkey’s history, with 95 lives lost and around 250 wounded. Initial blame will likely be proffered to ISIS, also known as the Islamic State or ISIL, though the group has to date only claimed the Suruç attack.
Turkey shares a border with Syria and has drawn the animus of ISIS in the last couple years, despite claims that border guards have turned a blind eye to ISIS recruits crossing from Turkey into Syria. Last year, ISIS called for Turks to revolt against their government, and in 2014 they threatened to conquer Turkey and integrate it into their self-proclaimed caliphate.
Shortly after the attack, U.S. Ambassador to Turkey John Bass announced via Twitter that he was following the situation.
Ambassador Bass: Closely following reports of an explosion in #Sultanahmet. Our thoughts are with those affected…
— US Embassy Turkey (@USEmbassyTurkey) January 12, 2016