ISTANBUL – Turkish police said Monday that they had apprehended a Syrian woman with suspected ties to Kurdish militants, and that she admitted to setting a bomb on a busy pedestrian route in Istanbul, killing six people and injuring dozens more.
The explosion happened on Istiklal Avenue, a prominent street lined with stores and restaurants that leads to Taksim Square.
“The guy who left the explosive was caught by our Istanbul Police Department teams a short time ago,” Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said early Monday. The culprit was later identified as Ahlam Albashir, a Syrian national, by police.
According to the Istanbul Police Department, recordings from 1,200 security cameras were evaluated, and raids were conducted at 21 different sites. At least 46 additional persons were held for questioning as well.
According to police, the suspect fled the scene in a taxi after dropping TNT-type explosives on the packed avenue.
The explosion on Sunday was a startling reminder of the fear that gripped the Turkish people during the years when such assaults were regular. Between 2015 and 2017, the country was plagued by a series of devastating explosions, some carried out by the Daesh group and others by Kurdish militants seeking more autonomy or independence.
The outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has denied any involvement in the deadly attack over the weekend.
“Our people and the democratic public are well aware that we are unrelated to this tragedy, that we will not directly attack civilians, and that we will not accept activities that target civilians,” the group said in a statement released by the Firat news agency. Firat has ties to the PKK, which Turkiye and its Western allies have designated as a terrorist organization.
During her interrogation, the suspect told police that she had been trained as a “special intelligence officer” by the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, as well as the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party and its armed branch. According to the police statement, she entered Turkiye illegally through the Syrian border town of Afrin.
The suspect would have escaped to neighboring Greece if she had not been apprehended, according to the interior ministry.
Soylu previously stated that security authorities suspect the attack was ordered from Kobani, a mostly Kurdish city in northern Syria bordering Turkiye. He promised to avenge the attack.
“We know what message the perpetrators of this action intend to send us. “We received this message,” Soylu stated. “Don’t worry, we’ll pay them back handsomely.”
Soylu also criticized the US, comparing a condolence telegram from the White House to “a killer being the first to arrive at a crime scene.” Turkiye has been enraged by the United States’ assistance for Syrian Kurdish parties.
The White House condemned the “act of brutality” in Istanbul in a sympathy letter, adding, “We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our NATO friend (Turkiye) in confronting terrorism.”
Turkish media aired footage purportedly showing the key suspect being apprehended at a house where she was apparently hiding. According to the report, cops searching the house seized substantial quantities of cash, gold objects, and a pistol.
Police later posted a photo of the lady in arrest standing between two Turkish flags.
According to the minister, Kurdish terrorists allegedly gave orders for the key suspect to be assassinated in order to prevent evidence from being tracked back to them.
According to Istanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya, 57 of the 81 persons who were hospitalized have been discharged. Six of the injured were in intensive care, and two were in critical condition, he said. The six people killed in the explosion belonged to three families and included youngsters ages 15 and 9.
After police completed their checks at the scene, Istiklal Avenue reopened to pedestrian traffic at 6 a.m. on Monday. People began dropping carnations at the blast scene, and the roadway was festooned with hundreds of Turkish flags.
Since 1984, the PKK has waged an insurgency in Turkiye. Since then, tens of thousands of people have been slain in the conflict.
Both Ankara and Washington consider the PKK to be a terrorist organization, although they disagree on the question of Syrian Kurdish forces fighting against the Daesh group in Syria.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has spearheaded a broad assault on militants as well as Kurdish legislators and activists in recent years. Erdogan’s anti-terrorism campaign is an important rallying point for him ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections next year, despite surging inflation and other economic problems.
Following the attacks that killed over 500 people and security personnel between 2015 and 2017, Turkiye initiated cross-border military operations against Kurdish militants in Syria and northern Iraq, while simultaneously cracking down on Kurdish politicians, journalists, and activists at home.