Istanbul explosion: Twin blasts outside soccer stadium kill 29, leaves 166 injured

Two explosions, one thought to have been a suicide bomb, have killed at least 29 people and wounded 166 outside a soccer stadium in Istanbul, officials said, in an attack apparently targeting police hours after a match between two of Turkey’s top teams.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said 27 of the 29 killed were police officers, and that 17 of the wounded were undergoing surgery. Six are intensive care.

He said 10 people had been detained in connection with the blasts, which according to initial indications, were caused by a car bomb and a suicide bomber targeting a riot police bus.

President Tayyip Erdogan described the blasts outside the Vodafone Arena, home to Istanbul’s Besiktas soccer team, as a terrorist attack on police and civilians.

He said the aim of the bombings, shortly after the end of a match attended by thousands of people, had been to cause the maximum number of casualties.

“As a result of these attacks unfortunately we have martyrs and wounded,” Mr Erdogan said in a statement.

“Nobody should doubt that with God’s will, we as a country and a nation will overcome terror, terrorist organisations … and the forces behind them.”

The suspected bomber struck in Macka park, next to the Vodafone Arena, home to Istanbul’s Besiktas soccer team, while the second explosion hit directly outside the stadium, Mr Soylu said, describing the attack as a “cruel plot”.

A Reuters photographer said many riot police officers were seriously wounded.

Armed police sealed off streets. A police water cannon doused the wreckage of a burned-out car and there were two separate fires on the road outside the stadium.

A taxi driver at the site said force of the bombs made him hit his head on the taximeter and that his ears were still ringing from the blasts and screaming that followed.

“Amid the screams I heard an officer saying ‘do not shout! Do not make them [the perpetrators] be satisfied,” Ismail Coskun said.

Omer Yilmiz, who works as a cleaner at the nearby Dolmabahce mosque, was drinking tea at a nearby cafe when the explosions went off.

“People ducked under the tables, women began crying. Football fans drinking tea at the cafe sought shelter, it was horrible.”

Broadcaster NTV said the explosion targeted a police vehicle that was leaving the stadium after fans had already dispersed.

Soccer team Bursaspor said none of its fans appeared to have been injured in the explosion.

“We have contacted our fan groups. There appear to be no injuries among our fans. We wish injured citizens a quick recovery,” it said in a statement on its Twitter account.

“Those attacking our nation’s unity and solidarity will never win,” Sports Minister Akif Cagatay Kilic said on Twitter.

Transport Minister Ahmet Arslan, also writing on Twitter, described it as a terrorist attack.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg condemned what he described as “horrific acts of terror”, while European leaders also sent messages of solidarity.

Turkey has been hit by a series of bombings in recent years, some blamed on Islamic State militants, others claimed by Kurdish and far-leftist militant groups.

Reuters/AP

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