'Syrian suicide bomber' kills 10 in Turkey blast
AN EXPLOSION yesterday in the heart of Istanbul's historic Sultanahmet tourist district, said to be set off by a Syrian suicide bomber, killed at least 10 people and wounded 15.
Eight foreign tourists - six Germans, one Norwegian and one Peruvian - were among the deaths in the blast near the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, major tourist sites in the centre of Turkey's most populous city, said local NTV news channel.
Some of the hospitalised were in critical condition, reported CNN Turkey.
Several bodies lay on the ground in the Sultanahmet square in the immediate aftermath of the blast.
A police officer and witnesses at the scene also reported seeing several body parts.
There was a high probability Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants were behind the explosion, two senior Turkish security officials told Reuters.
"Turkey's determined position will not change. We don't make any difference between the names or abbreviations (of terror groups)," Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan later said over a lunch in capital Ankara, with the speech broadcast live on television.
"The first target of all the terror groups active in this region is Turkey. Because Turkey fights them all with the same determination," he added.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu held an emergency meeting in Ankara with the Interior Minister and security chiefs.
His office imposed a broadcasting ban on the blast, invoking a law that permits such steps if national security or public order is at risk.
Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus later said the Syrian bomber was born in 1988.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for yesterday's blast but Kurdish, leftist and "Islamic" militants have all carried out attacks in Turkey in the past.
Turkey has been on high alert after a series of attacks blamed on ISIS, including a double suicide bombing in Ankara in October that left 103 people dead.
Kurdish militants are also suspected as violence has escalated in the mainly Kurdish region in south-eastern Turkey since a two-year ceasefire collapsed in July between the state and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group.
The PKK has been fighting for three decades for Kurdish autonomy.
Turkey also sees a threat from the PYD and YPG, Kurdish groups in Syria which are fighting ISIS, with the backing of the United States.
In August, leftist militants belonging to the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front, or DHKP-C, tossed a grenade at Istanbul's Dolmabahce Palace, now a museum and a major tourist destination. No one was injured.