Deadly Istanbul bombing sparks fear and backlash in Turkey | News

The blast, which killed six people and injured 81, brings back stark memories of a string of attacks from 2015 to 2017.

Istanbul, Turkey – Crowds have begun to return to Istiklal Avenue, the busy pedestrian street in central Istanbul, where six people were killed and 81 injured on Sunday. The local population was shocked and defiant after the attack.

Furkan works in a chocolate shop a stone’s throw from where the bomb went off.

“About 4:20 p.m [13:20 GMT] we were smoking a cigarette at the door,” he told Al Jazeera. “Suddenly there was an explosion. We were amazed. It was a terrifying situation.”

He said a mob was quickly forming in the area and he was concerned about the possibility of a second bomb going off. The store closed for the rest of the day, but he was back to work on Monday.

The police had closed all entrances to Istiklal after the explosion. The street reopened on Monday, although the main entrance was temporarily blocked by police until 3:45 pm (12:35 GMT) when politicians visited the site of the blast, where flowers have been placed as a memorial to the victims. Istiklal was lined with Turkish flags, as many as 1,200, according to some accounts.

The blast killed a nine-year-old girl and her father, a teenager and her mother, and a married couple. All were Turkish citizens.

On Monday, authorities said 57 injured had been released after treatment, while 24 injured, including two people in critical condition, remained in hospital.

Istiklal had a heavy police presence and was not as busy as usual on Mondays, but the street was still full of pedestrians nonetheless.

Metincan Alkan, 30, works at Marlen, a bar on a back street not far from where the explosion happened. He said businesses in the district will be hit hard after the attack.

“People will start again [stay] away from Beyoglu,” he said. “I mean, it’s bad for us from every angle.”

Mustafa Topcuoglu, 53, is a regular on Istiklal Avenue, known for his icli kofte – bags of Bulgarian wheat filled with spiced meat – which he sells from a small street stall a few minutes away from where the explosion took place.

He told Al Jazeera he was upstairs in his adjoining restaurant and heard the blast, but was back at his post by Monday afternoon.

“The purpose of terrorism is to frighten people, create an atmosphere of panic and lock them in their homes,” Topcuoglu said. “No matter what, we still came, we’re working, we’re continuing our work, and we’ve reopened.”

Relatives and friends of Arzu Ozsoy and her 15-year-old daughter Yagmur Ucar, who died in the explosion on Sunday
Relatives and friends of Arzu Ozsoy and her 15-year-old daughter Yagmur Ucar, who died in Sunday’s explosion, attend their funeral in Istanbul [Emrah Gurel/AP Photo]

The person suspected of planting the bomb on a bank, a Syrian woman named Ahlam Albasir, was arrested early Monday in the Istanbul suburb of Kucukcekmece. At least 46 people had been taken into custody in connection with the attack as of early evening.

According to media reports, Istanbul police said Albasir had confessed to having ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its Syrian subsidiary, the People’s Defense Units (YPG).

However, in statements on Monday, the PKK and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which consists largely of YPG fighters, denied responsibility for the attack.

The blast has revived stark memories of a series of attacks carried out by groups linked to the PKK and by ISIL (ISIS) across Turkey from 2015 to 2017. In March 2016, an ISIL-affiliated suicide bomber killed four people on Istiklal Avenue.

Soner Cagaptay, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute, told Al Jazeera that further violence is likely to affect Turkey’s parliamentary and presidential elections due in June.

“This is quite a worrying development and we will have to wait and see who is behind it and whether there is a group that will take responsibility,” he said.

“This attack, if followed by others, could cause the electorate to swing right and consolidate around the security candidate,” Cagaptay said. “This is what happened the last time Turkey experienced a series of terror attacks in 2015.”

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