6 killed, 53 injured as major blast rocks Istanbul; Erdogan condemns ‘vile attack’

ISTANBUL — An explosion on one of Istanbul’s most popular pedestrian thoroughfares killed at least six people and injured 53 on Sunday, authorities said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the “vile attack” and said authorities were “working to find the perpetrators.”

A video posted online showed flames and a loud bang, as pedestrians turned and ran away. Other footage showed ambulances, fire trucks and police at the scene. Social media users said shops were shuttered and the avenue closed down.

Turkey’s media watchdog imposed a temporary ban on reporting on the explosion — a move that prevents broadcasters from showing videos of the moment of the blast or its aftermath. The Supreme Council of Radio and Television has imposed similar bans in the past, following attacks and accidents.

Istanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya tweeted the death toll and said those hurt were being treated.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said it was in touch with the consulate in Istanbul to establish if there were any Israelis harmed in the incident.

An Israeli woman who witnessed the blast said it occurred outside a restaurant that is popular with tourists from Israel.

“It was a terrible explosion. It’s impossible to describe what is going on there,” the woman, who was identified only by her first name Osnat, told Channel 12 news.

The woman said she was with her daughters at the time.

Another Israeli who was in the area told the network that he was some 150 meters away from the site of the blast.

“My back hurts from the shock that hit me. I felt a real boom and everything was smoke. People were running amok,” Avi Ben Yishai was quoted as saying.

Benny Lam, a former Israeli soccer coach and player, said he was also in the area.

“Today we arrived in Istanbul and went to a restaurant from the airport, and we sat there an hour. When we got up, we heard a blast 30-40 meters from us. If we had remained seated, we would’ve been among the wounded,” he said.

“We saw people flying in the air,” Lam added.

Turkey was hit by a string of deadly bombings between 2015 and 2017 by the Islamic State jihadist group and outlawed Kurdish groups.

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