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Turkey blames Kurdish group for Istanbul bombing

On Monday, people lay flowers to pay tribute to the victims of a Sunday's blast that took place on Istanbul's famous Istiklal Street in Istanbul, Turkey.
Burak Kara
Getty Images
On Monday, people lay flowers to pay tribute to the victims of a Sunday's blast that took place on Istanbul's famous Istiklal Street in Istanbul, Turkey.

ISTANBUL, Turkey — Turkish authorities claim to have identified the perpetrator of Sunday's explosion on Istanbul's best-known commercial street that killed at least six people and injured 81 others.

Istanbul police released a statement on their official Twitter account saying the bomber had been identified as a Syrian woman named Ahlam Albashir.

The statement says that during interrogation, the woman admitted she received her orders from the PYD, Syria's Democratic Union Party, which Turkey views as the Syrian affiliate of the PKK, the Kurdistan Workers' Party, a group Turkey has been battling for decades.

The statement goes on to say that 46 other individuals were also detained for questioning about any possible role they may have had in the attack.

The PKK denied any involvement in the attack and said it does not attack civilians, in a statement.

Turkey's Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu briefed reporters on the latest developments — including the capture and detention of the bomber.

In his remarks, Soylu condemned countries who he said harbor terrorist groups. He specifically named the United States, saying getting a condolence message from Washington was like "a killer being the first to show up at a crime scene." The U.S. has supported Kurdish groups in Syria over the past decade as they've battled the Islamic State, which has long been a source of disagreement with Turkey.

Turkey has also condemned Sweden for allegedly supporting terror groups.

A return to more dangerous times

For some Istanbul residents, the blast Sunday was a reminder of more dangerous periods in the recent past.

Shop owner Hasan Ozsut, who estimates he was roughly 500 yards from the blast when it happened, said he saw about four people lying on the ground and many others running.

Ozsut is a dairy farmer who sells his products at a shop on Istiklal Avenue. He thinks his shop was very near to the blast site, and would like to check the damage, but he was prevented from reaching the scene Sunday as police, fire fighters and ambulances descended on the scene.

The 60-year-old says he's proud to be a merchant on Istiklal Avenue, which he says many see as the heart of Istanbul. But he knows that every time something like this happens, people naturally stay away for a time.

With the end of the year holidays approaching, he wonders if this season will be a poor one for businesses.

Usually, he says, "The people are going to be Christmas shopping, they're going to come here, you know, do some Christmas tourism. This is actually a bomb to [the] Turkish economy."

Oszut and other Istanbul residents see Sunday's explosion as an echo of earlier terrorist attacks in the city.

On New Year's Day in 2017, a gunman shot and killed 39 people at a nightclub. Almost 80 others were also injured. In 2003, a series of suicide bombings was carried out using trucks at four locations in the city.

The U.S. condemned the explosion, describing it as an act of violence in a statement issued by the White House press secretary.

"We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our NATO Ally," press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in the news release.

Five prosecutors were assigned to investigate the explosion, state-run Anadolu news agency said.

Turkey's Interior Minister repeated Erdogan's pledge to bring those responsible to justice — and to deal a harsh blow to those engaging in terrorism against the country and its citizens.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Peter Kenyon is NPR's international correspondent based in Istanbul, Turkey.