The terrorist who carried out the suicide bombing in Istanbul that killed three Israelis and an Iranian, and wounded dozens more, was affiliated with the Islamic State in Turkey.
Turkey’s interior minister on Sunday identified the suicide bomber who killed four foreign tourists in Istanbul as a terrorist with links to the Islamic State (IS/ISIS) group.
Minister Efkan Ala said the bomber was Turkish citizen Mehmet Ozturk, who was born in 1992 in Gaziantep province, which borders Syria. He said Ozturk wasn’t on any list of wanted suspects. Five other people were detained as part of the investigation.
Saturday’s explosion wounded dozens of others. Among the fatalities were two American-Israelis, another Israeli and an Iranian. The attack targeted Istanbul’s pedestrian Istiklal Street, which is lined with shops and cafes in an area that also has government offices and foreign missions.
“The identity of the terrorist who carried out this reprehensible attack has been determined…The findings obtained show that the terrorist is linked to the Daesh terror organization,” the minister said, using an alternative acronym for IS.
Istanbul remained tense a day after the bombing, with Turkish authorities postponing a high-profile soccer match between two major teams, citing an unspecified threat.
The Istanbul governor’s office said Sunday’s Galatasaray-Fenerbahce derby was canceled following “the assessment of serious intelligence.”
Turkey has endured six suicide bombing attacks in less than a year. The country faces a wide array of security threats including from ultra-left radicals, Kurdish rebels demanding greater autonomy who currently are locked in battle with security forces in the southeast, and IS.
Turkey is also a partner in the U.S.-led coalition against IS, and its air bases are being used to launch bombing runs against the group in neighboring Syria.
Two of the attacks this year hit the Turkish capital, Ankara. An offshoot of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Union claimed the Feb. 17 car bombing that killed 29 people and the March 13 suicide bombing that killed 37 people. On Jan. 12, an attack that Turkish authorities blamed on IS claimed the lives of a dozen German tourists visiting Istanbul’s historic sites. That attack delivered a bitter blow to the country’s vital tourism sector.
Ala said Turkey was determined to press ahead with its fight against extremist groups, but admitted it was difficult to prevent suicide attacks.
“We are working so that they do not happen,” the minister said.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also vowed to defeat groups trying to harm Turkey.
“The terror groups and the forces behind them will sooner or later in the end be beaten,” Erdogan said.
It wasn’t immediately clear if the Israelis were specifically targeted, but Israel’s counter-terrorism bureau upgraded the threat level in Turkey, issuing a travel advisory that recommends Israelis avoid visiting Turkey.
IDF Leads Military Struggle Against Terrorism
Speaking at his weekly Cabinet meeting, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “Terror wreaks death and destruction around the world … The key to the moral fight against terror is to clarify that terror, the killing of innocent civilians, has no justification – not in Istanbul, not in the Ivory Coast and not in Jerusalem.”
“Terrorism sows death around the world,” the Israeli leader stated. “Israel is at the forefront of the fight against global terrorism. This struggle is first of all military, but no less is it a moral struggle. The key to the moral fight against terrorism is to make it clear that terrorism, the murder of innocents, has no justification anywhere – not in Istanbul or the Ivory Coast or Jerusalem. Whoever does not condemn terrorism, supports terrorism.
“It is the IDF and the security forces who are leading the military struggle against terrorism. While attempts to disparage IDF soldiers are wrong in their own right, attempts to gather intelligence about them are completely unacceptable and will be dealt with by the responsible authorities,” he said, apparently referring to NGOS such as Breaking the Silence that work to defame the IDF.
The Israelis’ bodies and other Israelis wounded in the blast were being evacuated while a senior Israeli foreign ministry official headed to Istanbul for meetings with Turkish officials.
By: AP and United with Israel Staff