Turkish police have arrested 46 people after an explosion in central Istanbul killed at least eight people and injured 81, Istanbul police said.
Interior Minister Suleiman Soylu told reporters on Monday that the suspects included “those who left a bomb that exploded” on the busy Istiklal Avenue in Turkey’s largest city.
Al Jazeera’s Sinem Koseoglu reported from Istanbul that a three-year-old girl and her father were among the dead.
— Anadolu Agency (@anadoluagency) November 14, 2022
Soylu blamed the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) for Sunday’s bombing at the popular shopping and tourist attraction, saying: “Our assessment is that the order for the deadly terrorist attack came from Ain al-Arab [Kobane] In northern Syria,” he said the group has its Syrian headquarters there.
“We will take revenge on those responsible for this heinous terrorist attack,” he said, adding that the death toll had risen from six to eight and 81 were injured, two of them in critical condition.
Turkish authorities do not rule out links to ISIL (ISIS), a senior Turkish official said on Monday.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the bombing.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday called the blast “dangerous” and said it “smells like terrorism”.
Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag told A Haber TV late Sunday that a woman was seen sitting on a bench on Istiklal Avenue for more than 40 minutes.
He said the explosion happened minutes after she woke up.
“There are two possibilities,” he told A Haber. “Either there was a mechanical device in this bag and it exploded, or someone remotely exploded [it]”.
Al Jazeera has obtained images of the woman suspected of being behind the bombing.
— قناة الجزيرة (@AJArabic) November 13, 2022
During the initial questioning, the woman said she had been trained by Kurdish fighters in Syria and entered Turkey through the Afrin region in northwestern Syria, police said.
TV news reports also showed images of what appeared to be a woman who left a package under a raised flower bed in Istiklal, where a tram runs across the street.
Two other Syrian nationals were also involved in the attack, Al Jazeera’s Kosioglu said, according to security sources.
“The interior minister mentioned that the perpetrators were linked to the Syrian Kurdish armed group YPG, which Turkey considers to be a branch of the illegal PKK,” Kosioglu said.
“We are waiting for officers to provide more details about the suspects… [including] How they crossed the Turkish-Syrian border because Turkey is very strict with Syrians who stay in big cities without a residence permit or registration. “
She added that the woman, who appeared to be in her twenties or early thirties, was “caught by police where she was staying” at 2.50am.
According to Istanbul police, 1,200 security cameras have been checked near the blast site. Police have conducted raids at 21 different addresses and the female suspect has been identified as being linked.
Istanbul and other Turkish cities have been targeted by Kurdish separatists, ISIL and other groups in the past, including in a series of attacks in 2015 and 2016.
These included two bombings outside the Istanbul football stadium in December 2016, killing 38 and injuring 155. The attack was claimed by a branch of the PKK, which has been running a Kurdish self-government movement in southeastern Turkey since the 1980s and has been designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.
The PKK has been a frequent target of Turkish military operations and is at the heart of a dispute between Sweden and Turkey, which has blocked Stockholm from joining NATO since May, accusing it of being lenient to the Kurdish bloc.
Several countries, including Azerbaijan, Egypt, France, Greece, Italy, Pakistan, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United States, condemned Sunday’s attack and offered condolences to the victims.
Greece “unequivocally” condemned the bombing and offered its condolences, while the United States said it “stands side by side with our NATO allies in the fight against terrorism”.
French President Emmanuel Macron said in a message to the Turkish people: “We share your pain. We stand with you in the fight against terrorism”.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also tweeted in Turkish: “The pain of the friendly Turkish people is our pain.”
European Council President Charles Michel also tweeted his condolences: “My thoughts are with the victims and their families.”