Turkey’s interior minister accused the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) on Monday of responsibility for a bombing in a busy Istanbul street that killed six people and wounded scores, saying more than 20 people have been arrested.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan landed in the Indonesian resort island of Bali for a G20 summit of the world’s leading economies shortly after his government accused the PKK of being behind Sunday’s blast, which wounded 81.
He had called the bombing a “vile attack” before leaving for the summit and said it had a “smell of terror.”
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The explosion tore through Istiklal Street, a popular shopping destination for locals and tourists, on Sunday afternoon. No individual or group has claimed the attack.
“The person who planted the bomb has been arrested,” interior minister Suleyman Soylu said in a statement broadcast by the official Anadolu news agency in the early hours of Monday.
He added that 21 others were also detained.
“According to our findings, the PKK terrorist organisation is responsible,” he said.
The PKK, blacklisted as a terrorist group by Ankara as well as its Western allies, has kept up a deadly insurgency for Kurdish self-rule in southeastern Turkey since the 1980s.
Soylu also accused PKK-affiliated Kurdish militants who control most of northeastern Syria and who are deemed as “terrorists” by Ankara of being responsible for the attack.
“We believe that the order for the attack was given from Kobane,” he said, referring to a city near the Turkish border. It was also the site of a 2015 battle between Kurdish militants and Islamic State jihadists, who were driven out after more than four months of fighting.
Regularly targeted by Turkish military operations, the PKK is at the heart of a tussle between Sweden and Turkey, which has been blocking Stockholm’s entry into NATO since May, accusing it of leniency towards the group.
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“We believe that it is a terrorist act carried out by an attacker, whom we consider to be a woman, exploding the bomb,” Turkey’s vice president Fuat Oktay said.
Justice minister Bekir Bozdag told Turkish news channel A Haber that a woman “had been sitting on one of the benches for more than 40 minutes, and then she got up”, leaving a bag.
“One or two minutes later, an explosion occurred,” he said.
“There are two possibilities,” he said. “There’s either a mechanism placed in this bag and it explodes, or someone remotely explodes (it).”
“All data on this woman are currently under scrutiny,” he said.
Soylu’s announcement did not add any details about the woman or the suspects arrested.
Istiklal Avenue reopened early on Monday morning.
Mecit Bal, who runs a small shop a few metres from the scene, said his son was working at the time of the blast.
“My son was there. He called me and said an explosion happened. He will not go back to work today. He is psychologically affected,” he told AFP.