Two explosions, one thought to have been a suicide bomb, killed at least 38 people and wounded over 160 people outside a football stadium in Istanbul on Saturday, officials said, in an attack apparently targeting police hours after a match between two of Turkey’s top teams.
President Tayyip Erdogan described the blasts outside the Vodafone Arena, home to Istanbul’s Besiktas football team, as a terrorist attack on police and civilians. He said the aim of the bombings, shortly after the end of a match attended by thousands of people, had been to cause the maximum number of casualties.
“As a result of these attacks unfortunately we have martyrs and wounded,” Erdogan said in a statement.
“People ducked under the tables, women began crying. Football fans drinking tea at the cafe sought shelter, it was horrible,” he told Reuters.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said one of the explosions hit directly outside the stadium, while the suspected suicide bomber struck in the adjacent Macka park. Earlier, he said initial indications suggested a car bomb targeting a police bus was responsible for one of the blasts.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Islamic State, Kurdish and far-leftist groups have all carried out bomb attacks in Turkey before. The NATO member is part of the US-led coalition fighting Islamic State in Syria, and is battling an insurgency by Kurdish militants in its southeast.
CASUALTIES MAINLY POLICE
A Reuters photographer said many riot police officers were seriously wounded. Armed police sealed off streets. A police water cannon doused the wreckage of a burned-out car and there were two separate fires on the road outside the stadium.
Broadcaster NTV said one of the explosions had targeted a police vehicle that was leaving the stadium after fans had already dispersed.
Football team Bursaspor, whose match against Besiktas ended two hours before the blasts, said none of its fans appeared to have been injured. It and Besiktas both condemned the attack.
“Those attacking our nation’s unity and solidarity will never win,” Sports Minister Akif Cagatay Kilic said on Twitter. Transport Minister Ahmet Arslan, also writing on Twitter, described it as a terrorist attack.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg condemned what he described as “horrific acts of terror”, while European leaders also sent messages of solidarity.
Saturday night’s attacks come five months after Turkey was shaken by a failed military coup, in which more than 240 people were killed, many of them in Istanbul, as rogue soldiers commandeered tanks and fighter jets in a bid to seize power.
Istanbul has seen several other attacks this year, including in June, when around 45 people were killed and hundreds wounded as three suspected Islamic State militants carried out a gun and bomb attack on its main Ataturk airport.