Bombings in Turkey

A bomb exploded in the tourism heart of Istanbul today.  A bomb killed ten German tourists near Sultanahmet square, close to the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofiya. An additional fifteen people have been injured. Most of the fifteen people injured are believed to be visitors to Turkey, including Norwegian and Peruvian citizens. This implies that the attack was carefully planned and timed, and that tourists were deliberately selected.

According to Turkish authorities, the attack is the work of a suicide bomber who has been identified by remains as a Syrian national born in 1988. Local media places the blame squarely on ISIS. Turkey is involved in fighting ISIS in Syria right now, opposing both Iran and Russia in what many have described as a proxy war.

This attack seems targeted at Turkey’s economy and international reputation.

The Sultanahmet district includes many of Istanbul’s ancient sites and is a massive draw for tourists. In addition to the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofiya, and obelisk of Thutmose III, the area includes a Roman aquaduct and hippodrome. Istanbul had over twelve million tourists in 2015; it is the fifth-most visited city in the world.  Increasing tourism has been a major economic priority of the Turkish government.

It has been nearly a year since the last major terrorist attacked in Istanbul, in which a female suicide bomber blew herself up at a tourist police station not far from the same square. No clear motive has been established for that attack, which has been hypothetically linked to both Islamic militants and the Turkish far-left. Turkey has, however, faced bombings and other violence in areas that border Syria.

Updated news on the attack is challenging to access; the Turkish government has placed a ban on media reporting about the incident. However, Guardian Unlimited has a useful blog with frequent updates on the aftermath of the attacks.

UPDATE: It now appears that nine of the victims were German nationals. The tenth was Peruvian.