(Istanbul) Panic gripped the heart of Istanbul, Turkey, on Sunday after a massive explosion of unknown origin left at least six people dead and injured in the busy shopping street of Istiklal.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan denounced a “vile attack” which left “six dead and 53 injured”, according to a latest report, Sunday in Istanbul, he said live on television.
“The first observations let suspect a terrorist attack”, affirmed the president, in front of the press, by adding that “a woman would be implied there”, without further precision.
Rumors circulated immediately after the explosion, concerning a suicide attack, without any confirmation or evidence.
“The perpetrators of this vile attack will be unmasked. Let our people be sure that the perpetrators will be punished,” he promised, two hours after the explosion in the shopping street of Istiklal.
“Attempts to trap Turkey and the Turkish nation in terror cannot achieve their goal today or tomorrow, any more than they did yesterday,” the president assured.
“Police, health, fire and rescue teams have been dispatched to the scene. We have injuries and loss of life,” Istanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya said.
Less than an hour after the events, the Turkish Audiovisual High Council (RTUK) also prohibited the audiovisual media from broadcasting images of the scene.
According to the AFP videographer who went there, the police established a wide security cordon to prevent access to the bruised area for fear of a second explosion. An imposing deployment of security forces also blocks all access.
“I was 50-55 m away, suddenly there was a sound of an explosion. I saw three or four people on the ground,” a witness, Cemal Denizci, 57, told AFP.
“People were running in panic. The noise was huge. There was black smoke. The sound was so loud, almost deafening,” he reported.
The area was completely evacuated.
The police cordoned off access to Istiklal Street and adjacent streets, and helicopters flew over the city center where numerous sirens sounded.
Families with children in their arms tried to run away from the neighborhood.
In the neighboring district of Galata, many shops have lowered their curtains.
Passers-by and tourists continued to walk around – much less than usual – some with their purchases in their hands, but others, who had come running from the site of the explosion, had tears in their eyes, noted a AFP journalist.
According to images posted on social networks at the time of the explosion, it, accompanied by flames, was heard from afar and immediately triggered a panic movement with people running in all directions.
A large black crater is visible in these images, along with several fallen bodies lying nearby.
The emotion is intense in Istanbul, already hard hit in the past.
Itstiqlal Street had already been hit in the past, during a campaign of attacks in 2015-2016 which targeted several Turkish cities including Istanbul. Claimed in part by the jihadist group Islamic State, these attacks left nearly 500 dead and more than 2,000 injured.