Istanbul – Ten foreigners were killed in an attack by a Syrian suicide bomber in the historic central district of Istanbul on Tuesday and at least 15 others were injured as the bomber set off an explosion. Most of the victims were German. Turkish government blames the Islamic State.
According to state officials, the attack was carried out by a 27-year-old Syrian man who had recently entered the country. The government did not give any more details of the investigation. Eight of the fatal victims were German and one was Peruvian, as reported by the New York Times. Among the wounded, there were nine Germans, alongside citizens of Peru, Norway, South Korea and Turkey.
The explosion took place at around 10:15 a.m. in the center of Sultanahmet, which is one of the most crowded districts in Istanbul and is filled with monuments commemorating the three empires – Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman – of which the former Constantinople was the capital city.
Tourism had already been hurt since a Russian citizen apparently linked to ISIS killed a police officer last November by detonating a suicide vest at a police station in the Sultanahmet area. The attack carried by the Syrian on Tuesday caused even more damage to Turkey’s $30 billion tourism industry. The German Foreign Office urgently warned tourists to keep away from public spaces in Istanbul, especially squares and outside tourist attractions.
The European Union has offered 3 billion euros (around $3.2 billion) to aid the two million refugees in Turkey that have arrived from Syria. The fact that the Tuesday attacker came as part of the flow of migrants from that country could make it difficult for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to keep collaborating with the 28-nation bloc, as he may now be under domestic pressure to be less receptive to new refugees. The assault may add one more reason to reject those seeking to travel to Europe through Turkey.
The Turkish’s southern border has already been shut to new migrants. Last week, new visa regulations were instituted for Syrians arriving by air. Turkey has been supporting rebel groups by offering its territory as a transit route for fighters and weapons, as the government is determined to see President Bashar al-Assad driven out. However, its western allies, including the United States, have accused Turkey of contributing to ISIS’s resurgence by providing terrorists with significant logistic support.
The blast occurred near the German Fountain, a structure that commemorates a visit by Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1898. Germans accounted for about one in six of all visits by foreigners last year, with 5.4 million.
“The terrorists are enemies of all free people — indeed, they are enemies of all humanity,” German chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday evening in Berlin. She expressed her solidarity with Turkish people and said she mourned for her compatriots.
Kristian Brakel, head of the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Turkey, said he did not believe the terrorist attack would change the way European leaders conceived the idea of the latest agreement on Syria. He commented that the rapprochement between the European Union and Turkey over the last month, with Germany being “the main driving force behind it,” would certainly not change after the Tuesday attack.
Source: New York Times