Greg Botelho et al., CNN, January 12, 2016
The suicide bomber who killed at least 10 foreigners Tuesday in a popular central Istanbul tourist area belonged to ISIS, officials said–an attack that shows the group’s nerve, reach and capacity for terror.
No group claimed responsibility for the blast, yet Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu pinned blame on the group that calls itself the Islamic State, which has entrenched itself in neighboring Syria and Iraq while proving willing time and again to lash out elsewhere.
At least eight Germans died in the blast between the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque tourist attractions in Istanbul’s cultural and historic heart, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, warning that figure may rise. A Turkish official earlier told CNN that at least nine Germans were killed. Davutoglu indicated that the 15 wounded were from inside and outside his country, with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier saying nine of those were German.
Born in 1988, the man responsible for the blast was not among the thousands being tracked by Turkish authorities, having “newly (come) into Turkey from Syria,” Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said.
A Norwegian citizen was taken to a nearby hospital after the incident, foreign ministry spokesman Frode Andersen told CNN.
Sajjan Gohel, international security director at the Asia-Pacific Foundation, doesn’t think it’s a coincidence this suicide blast happened in a square that’s both a draw for tourists and significant to Turkey’s history and its diverse cultural identity–the type of place, he said, “that ISIS is so deeply opposed to.”
“The type of monuments that are in Sultanahmet Square are the type that ISIS has been blowing up in Syria,” Gohel told CNN. “It’s seen as a place where you have a mesh of different entities. It’s a real melting pot.”