A suspect is in custody in connection with an explosion that killed at least six people and injured at least 81 others in Istanbul on Sunday, Turkey’s interior ministry said Monday.
The incident has been ruled a terrorist attack, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said on Sunday, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.
“We consider this to be a terrorist act as a result of an assailant, who we believe to be a woman, who detonated the bomb,” Oktay told reporters on Sunday.
Turkish authorities believe Kurdish separatists from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Democratic Union Party (PYD) were likely behind the suspected bomb attack, the country’s interior minister told reporters on Monday , Suleyman Soylu.
“It is a PKK/PYD terrorist organization according to our preliminary findings,” Soylu told a news conference at the site of Sunday’s attack on Istanbul’s Istiklal Avenue.
Soylu did not elaborate or provide details of how the researchers had reached this conclusion.
“A while ago, the person who left the bomb was arrested by the teams of the Istanbul Police Department. Before his arrest, 21 other people were also arrested,” the minister said. “The face of terrorism is bitter, but we will continue this fight to the end, whatever the cost.”
CCTV footage shows a woman sitting on a bench for more than 40 minutes and then getting up a minute or two before the explosion, leaving behind a purse or plastic bag, according to Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag.
Bozdag, who made the comments in an interview with private news channel A Haber, said Turkish security forces believe the woman is the suspect and that officials are investigating her.
“There are two possibilities. Either this bag or plastic bag has a mechanism, explodes on its own, or someone detonates it from afar. All of these are currently under investigation.” added.
“The woman’s name is unknown,” he said. “All recordings and data on the woman are being analyzed.”
The blast took place on Istiklal Street in Beyoglu Square, in the heart of Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya said.
“We wish God’s mercy for those who lost their lives and a speedy recovery for the injured,” Yerlikaya tweeted.
The six people killed include Yusuf Meydan, a member of Turkey’s Ministry of Family and Social Services, and his daughter Ecrin, according to Derya Yanık, the agency’s minister.
Soylu, the interior minister, said on Monday that 50 of the 81 injured people had been released from hospital and 31 people were still being treated.
Turkey’s conflict with Kurdish separatist groups has lasted four decades and claimed tens of thousands of lives. The PKK has been designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
“In particular, the insincerity of our so-called friendly allies, who either hide terrorists in their own country or feed terrorists in the areas they occupy and send them money from their own senates, is evident,” Soylu said. .
“We will give them an answer in the near future, to those who caused us this pain on Beyoglu Istiklal Street so that they experience more and more pain,” Soylu said.
Witness Tariq Keblaoui said he was shopping on Istiklal Street when the explosion occurred about 10 meters (32.8 feet) in front of him.
“People dispersed immediately,” said Keblaoui, a Lebanese journalist who was on his last day of vacation in the city.
“Very soon after, I could see how many wounded people were on the ground,” Keblaoui told CNN. He says he saw dead bodies and victims who were seriously injured.
“There was a man in the store bleeding from his ears and legs, and his friends were crying near him,” Keblaoui said.
Istiklal Street was full of visitors when the explosion took place on Sunday afternoon, he said.
“It went very quickly from a very quiet Sunday with a very busy street full of tourists to what looked like the aftermath of a war zone,” Keblaoui said.
The news of the explosion caused an outpouring of condolences from around the world.
French President Emmanuel Macron, whose own country suffered a deadly terrorist attack exactly seven years earlier, shared his sympathies for the Turkish people.
“On this symbolic day for our nation, as we think of the victims who fell on November 13, 2015, the Turkish people are struck by an attack on their heart, Istanbul,” he added. Macron tweeted sunday “To the Turks: We share your pain. We stand with you in the fight against terrorism.”
The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, has shared his condolences after Sunday’s deadly explosion.
“Horrible news from Istanbul tonight,” he said. “All our thoughts are with the current responders and the people of Turkey at this very distressing time.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg he tweeted his “deepest condolences” to the Turkish people, adding that NATO “stands in solidarity with our ally” Turkey.
The United States “strongly condemns the act of violence that took place today in Istanbul,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Sunday. “Our thoughts are with those injured and our deepest condolences to those who lost loved ones.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky he tweeted of his “deep sadness” at the news of the explosion. “I offer my condolences to the families of those who lost their lives and wish a speedy recovery to the injured,” Zelensky said. “The pain of the friendly Turkish people is our pain.”