Terrifying moment bomb explodes at popular tourist spot: 'Smells like terrorism'

Six people have been killed and 53 others have been wounded by an explosion that rocked a busy pedestrian street in central Istanbul in a frightening incident President Tayyip Erdogan called a bomb attack that "smells like terrorism".

Ambulances raced to the scene on the packed Istiklal Avenue, a popular tourist destination, which police had quickly cordoned off on Sunday (local time). The area, in the Beyoglu district of Turkey's largest city, had been crowded as usual at the weekend with shoppers, tourists and families.

Video footage shared online and verified by Reuters showed the moment the blast occurred in the centre of the avenue, sending debris into the air and leaving several people lying on the ground.

Multiple videos have captured the terrifying scene. Source: Twitter/TikTok
Multiple videos have captured the terrifying scene. Source: Twitter/TikTok

Initial reports suggested a female suicide bomber may be responsible but it remains unclear. Turkish justice minister Bekir Bozdag told pro-government broadcaster A Haber that investigators were looking into a woman who sat on a bench by the scene for about 40 minutes before the blast. Authorities did not know the identity of the woman.

No one has yet claimed responsibility and it is unclear what group might be behind the attack. Turkish cities have previously been targeted by Kurdish separatists, Islamist militants and other groups.

"Efforts to defeat Turkey and the Turkish people through terrorism will fail today just as they did yesterday and as they will fail again tomorrow," Erdogan told a news conference.

"Our people can rest assured that the culprits behind the attack will be punished as they deserve," he said, adding that initial information suggested "a woman played a part" in it.

"It would be wrong to say this is undoubtedly a terrorist attack but the initial developments and initial intelligence from my governor is that it smells like terrorism," Erdogan said.

'I was petrified': Witnesses react to the moment

Multiple videos posted on social media show the moment of the explosion as well as the devastating aftermath. In one clip, frightened people can be seen desperately running from the scene.

"When I heard the explosion, I was petrified, people froze, looking at each other. Then people started running away. What else can you do," Mehmet Akus, 45, a worker in a restaurant on Istiklal told Reuters.

"My relatives called me, they know I work on Istiklal. I reassured them."

A helicopter flew above the scene of the blast and a number of ambulances were parked in nearby Taksim Square.

The Kasimpasa police station said all crews were at the scene but gave no further details.

Local media said the Istanbul chief public prosecutor's office had launched an investigation into the blast.

If confirmed, it would be the first major bomb blast in Istanbul in several years.

Twin bombings outside an Istanbul soccer stadium in December 2016 killed 38 people and wounded 155 in an attack claimed by an offshoot of the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

with Reuters

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