At least five people have been killed in a suspected suicide bombing that hit central Istanbul days after scores of people were killed in a bombing attack in Ankara. A detonation was heard near Taksim square in the famous Istiklal Avenue that is usually packed with visitors and shoppers during weekends, at around 11am local time.
The city's governor Vasip Şahin said five people were killed in what his office said was a suspected suicide attack. The health ministry added 14 foreigners were among the 36 wounded that the Israeli foreign office confirmed included three of its nationals.
Online footage from the scene showed police cordoning off part of the street, urging onlookers to move out. A photo taken from a building overlooking the scene showed at least numerous people on the ground. Ambulances and police vehicles were deployed at the area.
British singer Skin, lead vocalist of Skunk Anansie, was staying at a nearby hotel when the blast went off. "Massive bomb blast outside our hotel," she wrote on social media. "Many people injured, horrific scenes, building shook like paper. We are ok, very shaken, city is in lockdown, plain clothes police with guns everywhere, scary times."
Authorities have imposed a broadcasting ban on reporting on suspected bombing, a controlling practice the government has consistently applied when responding to similar incidents.
With its many shops, cafes and restaurants Istiklal Avenue is one of Istanbul most famous landmarks and is normally crowded with people on Saturdays. Numerous countries have their consulate buildings in the area.
The explosion came as Turks are on the edge following a string of attacks across the country.
At least 37 people were killed and 125 others injured in a suicide bombing in central Ankara on 13 March.
Another 28 people were left dead by another bombing in the same area of the Turkish capital in February. Both attacks have been claimed by a splinter Kurdish militant group known as theKurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK).
The Islamic State (Isis) group and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) have also engaged in violence on Turkish soil in recent months. In January, ten people, mostly German tourists, were killed in a suicide bombing at Istanbul's iconic Sultanahmet Square that was blamed on IS (Daesh).
Earlier this week, Germany closed down its consulate and a school in Istanbul over intelligence of a possible terror attack. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said there were "concrete indications" that German institutions in the county could be targeted. The German embassy in Ankara and another school in the capital were also closed.
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