Istanbul, Dec 11: Two bombs exploded outside a major soccer stadium in Istanbul after fans had gone home, killing 38 people and wounding dozens, a Turkish official said, citing health ministry figures. One of the blasts was thought to be a suicide bomber.
Police cordoned off the area yesterday as smoke rose from behind the newly built Vodafone Arena Stadium, known colloquially as Besiktas Stadium after the local team. Witnesses also heard gunfire after the explosions. The second blast was thought to be a car bomb.
"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 and larger explosion took place about 10:30 p.m. after the home team Besiktas beat visitor Bursaspor 2-1 in the Turkish Super League. Erdogan said the timing of the attack aimed to maximise the loss of life and vowed the nation would overcome terrorism. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. This year, Istanbul has witnessed bombings 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. Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, who gave an initial wounded toll of 20 police officers, rushed from Ankara to Istanbul. "It is thought to be a car bomb at a point where our special forces police were located, right after the match at the exit where Bursaspor fans" had earlier left, Soylu was quoted as saying by Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency. Speaking later to reporters in Istanbul, he said the first explosion took place on a hill adjacent to and overlooking the stadium. The second explosion struck Macka Park and was believed to be a suicide bomb.
The private NTV channel reported that the target of the first attack was a bus for riot police and said nearly 70 wounded were taken to hospitals. Television images showed more than a dozen ambulances on a street hugging the stadium and a police helicopter flying overhead with its searchlights on. The window glass of nearby buildings was shattered by the blasts and coated the pavement.
Investigators, including Istanbul Police Chief Mustafa Caliskan, were quickly on the scene. Taxi driver Ismail Coskun said the force of the explosion caused him to hit his head on the taximeter and that his ears were still ringing from the blast and screaming that followed. "Amid the screams I heard an officer saying 'do not shout! Do not make them (the perpetrators) be satisfied," he told The AP.