Irish among injured as Istanbul suicide bomber linked to IS

A forensic team works at the scene of the explosion in the heart of Istanbul
A forensic team works at the scene of the explosion in the heart of Istanbul

The suicide bomber who killed four foreign tourists in Istanbul and injured many more – including a number of Irish citizens – has been identified as a militant with links to the Islamic State group.

Turkey’s interior minister Efkan Ala said the bomber was Turkish citizen Mehmet Ozturk, who was born in 1992 in Gaziantep province, which borders Syria.

He said Ozturk had no previous criminal record and five other people were detained as part of the investigation.

Saturday’s explosion killed five people, including Ozturk, and wounded dozens of others.

The other fatalities were two American-Israelis, another Israeli, and an Iranian.

The Turkish government said 39 people were wounded, including 24 foreigners of whom two were Irish citizens.

Irish minister for trade and foreign affairs Charlie Flanagan expressed his “horror and sadness” at the bombing, saying: “I am deeply saddened by today’s horrific bomb attack in central Istanbul.

“I have spoken to ambassador Brendan Ward in Turkey and can confirm that we are aware of a number of Irish citizens among the injured. An embassy official is on the ground in Istanbul to provide consular assistance.”

The attack targeted Istanbul’s pedestrian Istiklal Street, which is linked with shops and cafes in an area that also has government offices and foreign missions.

“The identity of the terrorist who carried out this reprehensible attack has been determined,” said Mr Ala.

“The findings obtained show that the terrorist is linked to the Daesh terror organisation,” the minister said, using an alternative expression for IS.

Turkey has endured six suicide bombing attacks in less than a year.

The country faces a wide array of security threats including from ultra-left radicals, Kurdish rebels demanding greater autonomy who are locked in battle with security forces in the south east, and the Islamic State group.

Turkey is also a partner in the US-led coalition against IS and its airbases are being used to launch bombing runs against the group in neighbouring Syria.

Two of the attacks this year hit the Turkish capital, Ankara.

Mr Ala said Turkey was determined to press ahead with its fight against terror groups but admitted it was difficult to prevent suicide attacks.

“We are working so that they do not happen,” the minister said.

Well-wishers placed carnations and candles at the scene of the attack, with one placard reading “We are on the streets, we are not afraid of you.”