Deputy prime minister says outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ party may be behind attack outside Istanbul football stadium
A twin bomb attack outside a football stadium in the Turkish city of Istanbul killed 38 people, mostly police officers, and injured more than 160 others, the country’s interior minister, Süleyman Soylu, has said.
The explosions, triggered by a car and suicide bomb less than one minute apart, struck outside Beşiktaş’s stadium less than two hours after a match had finished on Saturday evening.
Officials said the attack, which killed more than 30 police officers, was believed to have been orchestrated by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK) and 13 people had been detained overnight.
Fourteen of the 166 wounded remained in intensive care,Soylu said.
In comments broadcast on CNN Türk, Turkey’s deputy prime minister, Numan Kurtulmuş, said countries offering messages condemning the bombing should also show solidarity with Turkey’s fight against terrorism.
“The arrows point at the PKK. It is clearly a planned event. There will be an announcement once the investigations are over. We cannot say anything definite for now,” he said.
The prime minister, Binali Yıldırım, declared a day of mourning and ordered flags flown at half mast to commemorate the victims, the state-run Anadolu agency said.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan cancelled a planned trip to Kazakhstan, his office said. Erdoğan described the blasts as a terrorist attack on police and civilians. He said the aim of the bombings, two hours after the end of a match attended by thousands of people, had been to cause the maximum number of casualties.
“Nobody should doubt that with God’s will, we as a country and a nation will overcome terror, terrorist organisations … and the forces behind them,” he said in a statement.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Islamic State has been blamed for some bombings in Turkey this year, while others have been claimed by Kurdish militants. The blasts came less than a week after Isis urged its supporters to target Turkey’s “security, military, economic and media establishment”.
“It was like hell. The flames went all the way up to the sky. I was drinking tea at the cafe next to the mosque,” said Omer Yilmaz, who works as a cleaner at the nearby Dolmabahçe mosque, directly across the road from the stadium.
“People ducked under the tables, women began crying. Football fans drinking tea at the cafe sought shelter, it was horrible,” he said.
Turkey is a member of the Nato military alliance and part of the US-led coalition against Isis. It launched a military incursion into Syria in August against the Islamist group. It is also fighting a Kurdish militant insurgency in its own south-east.
All but two of those killed in the blasts were police officers, Soylu told a news conference with other government ministers. He said 17 of the wounded were undergoing surgery and another six were in intensive care.
Broadcaster NTV said one of the explosions had targeted a police vehicle that was leaving the stadium after fans had already dispersed.
Soylu described the blasts outside the Vodafone Arena, home to Istanbul’s Beşiktaș football team, as a “cruel plot”.
Beşiktaş’s opponents, Bursaspor, said none of their fans appeared to have been injured. The club and Beşiktaş both condemned the attacks. “Those attacking our nation’s unity and solidarity will never win,” sports minister Akif Çağatay Kılıç said on Twitter.
Turkey’s transport minister, Ahmet Arslan, also writing on Twitter, described it as a terrorist attack.
“I condemn the terror attack on Beşiktaş, Istanbul, and wish all those injured a speedy recovery,” he wrote.
The US consulate in Istanbul issued a tweet urging people to avoid the area.
In June, about 45 people were killed and hundreds wounded when three suspected Isis militants carried out a gun and bomb attack on Istanbul’s Ataturk airport.
Erdal Güven, editor-in-chief of Diken, an independent news portal based in Istanbul, said the brazen attack bore all the hallmarks of the group. “Early suspicions would fall on the PKK or an affiliated organisation, TAK, which always targets the police and has been behind similar bombings in Ankara,” he told the Guardian. “The other suspect, Isis, attacks indiscriminately. It doesn’t care if civilians are killed as well. This seems to have been specifically aimed at the police.”