Twin blasts near Istanbul soccer stadium kill 29, wound 166

Istanbul, Dec 11: (Agencies) Twin attacks by a suicide bomber and a car bomber near an Istanbul soccer stadium killed 29 people and wounded 166 others in the latest large-scale assault to traumatize a nation confronting an array of security threats.

The bombs targeted police officers, killing 27 of them along with two civilians, Turkey’s Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu told reporters early today. He added that 10 people had been arrested in connection with the “terrorist attack.”

The civilian death toll was lower because fans had already left the newly built Vodafone Arena Stadium after the soccer match when the blasts occurred. Witnesses also heard gunfire after the explosions.

“We have once again witnessed tonight in Istanbul the ugly face of terror which tramples on every value and decency,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a statement.

The first bomb went off just outside the facility known popularly as Besiktas Stadium after the local team and neighborhood. The second blast that came moments later was attributed by authorities to a suicide bomber.

Police cordoned off the area as smoke rose from behind the stadium and ambulances began ferrying the wounded to hospitals. Glass from the blown-out windows of nearby buildings littered the pavement.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. This year, Istanbul has witnessed a spate of attacks attributed by authorities to the Islamic State group or claimed by Kurdish militants. A state of emergency is in force following a failed July 15 coup attempt.

Soylu acknowledged the country was struggling against “many elements” trying to compromise its fight against terrorism.

Turkey is a partner in the US-led coalition against the Islamic State and its armed forces are active in neighboring Syria and Iraq. It is also facing a renewed conflict with an outlawed Kurdish movement in the southeast.

Ned Price, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, said Washington condemns the attack in “the strongest terms.”

“We stand together with Turkey, our NATO Ally, against all terrorists who threaten Turkey, the United States, and global peace and stability,” Price said in a statement.

A taxi driver at the site of the Istanbul bombings said their force made him hit his head on the taximeter and that his ears were still ringing from the blasts and screaming that followed.

“Amid the screams I heard an officer saying ‘do not shout! Do not make them (the perpetrators) be satisfied,” said Ismail Coskun.

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