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Suspected terror attack in central Istanbul kills six, wounds dozens

At least six people were killed and dozens wounded in an explosion on one of Istanbul’s busiest streets.  
A tramway drives through a crowd in Istiklal avenue on Jan. 25, 2019 in central Istanbul.

An explosion in central Istanbul on Sunday killed at least six and wounded 81, Turkish authorities said. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described the explosion as a “treacherous attack.”

The blast, which hit the busy touristic area of Istiklal Street near Taksim Square, took place around 4:20 p.m. local time, Erdogan said. 

Two of the victims died at nearby hospitals where they were taken after the explosion, he added.

Authorities “continue their efforts to establish the perpetrators of this treacherous attack,” Erdogan told journalists in a televised address, speaking before his departure for Bali for the G-20 summit. 

“Attempts to take Turkey and the Turkish nation hostage through terrorism will not achieve their goals,” he added, saying that the perpetrators will be punished.

No militant group has yet to claim responsibility for the attack.

Authorities have cordoned off all of the streets around the neighborhood and sealed off main roads, with helicopters belonging to the security services hovering over the scene.

“It caused panic. Some people started to run away while some others petrified,” a person who was close to the scene when the blast took place told Al-Monitor. The explosion was also felt in a nearby residential neighborhood Cihangir, shattering some windows, a resident of the neighborhood told Al-Monitor. 

Meanwhile, Turkish authorities issued a gag order on the coverage from the scene shortly after the blast.

“We call on media organizations to act responsibly and disregard disinformative content originating from social media,” Erdogan’s communication czar Fahrettin Altun tweeted.

An Istanbul prosecutor launched an investigation against some social media accounts over their speculative posts, Turkish media reported, without elaborating.

Internet access was highly disrupted in the country only a few hours after the attack, with social media platforms in particular slowing down significantly. 

Turkey's Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said eight Turkish prosecutors were investigating the explosion. Bozdag and the Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu travelled to Istanbul, Turkish media reported, citing officials. 

The French Consulate in Istanbul asked French citizens in the city to stay indoors and not to go out, Turkish media reported.

The US embassy in  Ankara said they were “deeply saddened by the explosion in Istanbul this afternoon. We extend our deepest condolences to the families of those who lost their lives and wish a speedy recovery for the injured.”

The EU Delegation to Turkey also extended condolences to the families of the victims and wished speedy recovery for the wounded.

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