A twin bomb attack in the Turkish city of Istanbul on Saturday has left at least 29 dead and 166 injured.
The attack consisted of the detonation of a car bomb on a riot police bus and then a suicide bomber, with the explosions occurring approximately 30 seconds apart. It took place outside the Besiktas Vodafone Football Arena; just two hours after a football match between two of Turkey’s most popular teams, Besiktas and Bursaspor.
Witnesses have said that after the blasts there was a great deal of panic, with football fans who had been lingering around after the game desperately seeking shelter and hiding under tables in nearby cafes.
Omer Yilmaz, a local cleaner, said that he saw flames shoot up into the sky, and when he went closer he could see a police bus on fire, with policemen still inside.
The attack is believed to have been directly targeted at police who were occupied with dispersing the crowd after the football game. A local Aljazeera correspondent has stated that of the 29 deaths, only two were citizens, with 27 police fatalities.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan released a statement shortly after the attack in which he stated that it was an attack carried out against both security forces and civilians, and was aimed at maximising casualties.
Although a terrorist group is yet to claim responsibility, security analyst Fadi Hakura has stated that the attack has all the hallmarks of a Kurdistan Workers’ Party operation.
The Kurdistan Workers’ Party, also known as the PKK, is a left wing group that has violently fought against the Turkish government since 1984. They claim to be seeking equal rights and self-determination for the Kurdish ethnic group living in Turkey. The PKK is recognised as a terrorist group by many countries including the United States, NATO, and the European Union.
Another possible suspect for the attacks is ISIL, however security experts have pointed out that unlike the PKK which targets primarily government security forces, ISIL does not normally have specific targeted groups, and does not care whether it kills civilians or government forces.
This attack is the latest in a series of terrorist acts in Turkey this past year. Armed Kurdish groups have staged attacks in the Turkish capital of Ankara two times, and suicide bombers believed to be part of ISIL have attacked Istanbul three times in the past 12 months.
July also saw a large scale attempted coup against President Erdogan, which resulted in the arrest of tens of thousands of people, particularly military officials who were supposedly involved.
As a result of the attack, the Turkish government has placed a blackout on media coverage of the explosions, stating that it is for security reasons. Security forces in Istanbul have been placed on high alert.
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