A suicide bomber struck the commercial and cultural heart of Turkey on Sunday, injuring at least 32 people at a major Istanbul crossroads popular with tourists.
Taksim Square, a vast transportation and commercial hub, is the city’s busiest node. The apparent targets of the 10:30 a.m. explosion were police officers at a law enforcement substation at the square’s northern end. At least 15 of those injured were police officers, and two of the wounded suffered life-threatening injuries.
Istanbul Police Chief Huseyin Capkin said at least one other bomb was found in the square, Turkey’s semiofficial Anatolia news agency reported. Authorities barred all pedestrian and vehicular traffic to the plaza as a precaution.
No group claimed responsibility for the attack, but it bore the trademarks of Al Qaeda and associated Islamic militants. Turkey last week announced the detention of a dozen suspected Al Qaeda members in Istanbul and the eastern city of Van. Al Qaeda-inspired militants killed dozens in 2003 in attacks on the British Consulate, two synagogues and a bank in Istanbul.
Turkey also has long fought an intermittent war against ethnic Kurdish insurgents in its southeastern provinces but has been struggling to negotiate a deal for lasting peace with representatives of the Kurdistan Workers Party. A unilateral cease-fire by the group, known as PKK, expired this weekend.
Turkish officials refused to accuse anyone of the attack but hinted that they suspected PKK involvement. The bombing coincided with celebrations marking the founding of the Turkish republic.
“Those who preferred violence over friendship, brotherhood and peace will not be able to reach their goals in the face of our people’s unity, solidarity and will to live peacefully,” Turkish President Abdullah Gul said in comments broadcast on television. “Such acts of terror do not serve efforts to resolve issues in a period in which democratic rights and freedoms are improving, everybody has mobilized to find solutions to problems and our people display their will to live in peace and tranquillity.”
A forensics team examined the bombing site. Security officials described the attacker as a man with explosives strapped to his torso. Amateur video broadcast on television showed frightened passersby fleeing the blast site. Other video showed the assailant’s body covered with newspapers.
“We think the attacker attempted to enter a police bus and detonate the bomb inside, but the explosives went off earlier,” Capkin, the police chief, was quoted as saying.