A twin attack by a suicide bomber and a car bomber near an Istanbul football stadium killed 38 people, mostly police, on Saturday evening.
In the first of the blasts, which were captured on video, a car bomber approached police at 10.30pm local time, about an hour and a half after a football game had ended at the Vodafone Arena, before detonating. Shortly after, a suicide bomber struck at the nearby Macka park, according to two security officials.
The timing and choice of target for the attack immediately swung suspicion to a Kurdish insurgency in Turkey that has repeatedly focused on the police and armed forces, including a car bombing near the Air Force headquarters in Ankara earlier this year that killed 37 security officials. Nobody has yet claimed responsibility.
The blasts occurred just hours after Turkey's ruling Justice and Development party unveiled a draft constitution that would strengthen Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s presidency and potentially allow him to rule the country until 2029. The party said it was designed to help the president fight these and other threats to the country.
In the past year, Turkey has suffered dozens of terrorist incidents, including several bombings in Istanbul and Ankara that have been either been attributed to Isis or claimed by an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ party, or PKK.
“We have once again witnessed tonight in Istanbul the ugly face of terror which tramples on every value and decency,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said. He added that the timing of the attack had been aimed to maximise the loss of life, and vowed that the nation would overcome terrorism.
The car bomb exploded at the intersection of several roads near the Ritz-Carlton hotel and close to the entrance to the Dolmabahce Palace, a major tourist attraction.
Had the bombs exploded earlier, the death toll could have been significantly higher, killing fans as they streamed out of the 40,000 capacity stadium at 9pm.
Turkey is a partner in the US-led coalition against Isis and its armed forces are active in neighbouring Syria and Iraq. The country is also facing a renewed conflict with an outlawed Kurdish movement in the south-east.
Ned Price, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, said Washington condemned the attack in “the strongest terms”.
“We stand together with Turkey, our Nato ally, against all terrorists who threaten Turkey, the United States, and global peace and stability,” Mr Price said.
Turkey declared a day of mourning, with flags flying at half-mast.
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