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Turkey arrests Istanbul bombing suspect, who killed 6, injures dozens

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu says suspect who planted bomb in custody; investigators focus on woman who sat near scene for 40 minutes before blast

ISTANBUL – The person who planted a bomb on Istanbul’s Istiklal Street that killed at least six people and injured dozens has been arrested, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu told Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency on Monday, pointing the finger at the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his vice president, Fuat Oktay, previously said a “woman” was responsible for the attack, but it was not immediately clear whether a female suspect had been arrested.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag earlier told pro-government broadcaster A Haber that investigators were targeting a woman who sat on a bench near the site of the blast for about 40 minutes. The explosion happened just minutes after she left.

Erdogan called the explosion a “treacherous attack” and promised that its perpetrators would be punished. Oktay put the number of injured at 81, with two in serious condition.

In further comments to Anadolu Soyla, he accused the PKK of being behind the attack. “According to our findings, the PKK terrorist organization is responsible,” Soylu said.

A bomb tore through a busy pedestrian thoroughfare in the heart of Istanbul on Sunday, killing six people, injuring dozens and sending panicked people fleeing the fiery blast or huddling in cafes and shops.

Emergency vehicles rushed to the scene on Istiklal Avenue, a popular artery lined with shops and restaurants that leads to the iconic Taksim Square. In one video posted online, a loud bang was heard and a flash was seen as the pedestrians turned and ran.

Sunday’s blast was a shocking reminder of the fears and anxieties about security that have dogged the Turkish population in the years when such attacks were common. The country was hit by a series of deadly bombings between 2015 and 2017, some by the Islamic State group, others by Kurdish militants seeking greater autonomy or independence.

In recent years, Erdogan has led a broad crackdown on militants as well as Kurdish lawmakers and activists. Amid soaring inflation and other economic problems, Erdogan’s anti-terror campaign is a key rallying point ahead of next year’s presidential and parliamentary elections.

Many foreign governments have expressed condolences, including neighboring Greece, with which relations are strained. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he was “shocked and saddened by the news of the heinous attack”.

The United States also condemned the attack, with White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre saying: “We stand side by side with our NATO ally Turkey in the fight against terrorism.

In a message to the Turks, French President Emmanuel Macron said: “We share your pain. We stand with you in the fight against terrorism”.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog, shaken by the news of the heinous bombing in Istanbul targeting innocent civilians, tweeted in Turkish and English: “The whole world must stand united and firm against terror.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also tweeted in Turkish: “The pain of the friendly Turkish people is our pain.”

EU Council President Charles Michel expressed his condolences to Turkey on Twitter: “My thoughts are with the victims and their families.

Following attacks in Turkey between 2015 and 2017 that left more than 500 civilians and security personnel dead, Turkey launched cross-border military operations into Syria and northern Iraq against Kurdish militants while cracking down on Kurdish politicians, journalists and activists at home.

While the Kurdish militants, known as the PKK, are considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, critics say Erdogan has also used broad terror laws to suppress free speech.

Most recently, Turkey passed a controversial “disinformation law” that imposes up to three years in prison for social media users who spread false information about domestic or international security, public order or health. Critics said the wording of the article was so vague that it could be used to stifle dissent.

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