Three Israeli tourists were killed and six others wounded in a suicide attack in Istanbul, Turkey, on Saturday. It was the fourth suicide bombing in Turkey’s largest city since the beginning of the year.
An Iranian national was also killed and several more Israelis injured in the blast. The victims were flown to Israel on Sunday.
The bombing happened on Istiklal Street, a shopping area in central Istanbul.
The Turkish interior minister on Sunday identified the bomber as Mehmet Özturk, a supporter of the ISIS terror movement and a resident of the southern Turkish border town of Gaziantep.
Local media reported that the suicide bomber had followed a group of Israeli tourists from their hotel before detonating himself and killing four others.
On Monday, at least half a dozen Turkish newspapers from across the political spectrum carried head-and-shoulders pictures of three suspected ISIS members. The reports said the suspects had been given instructions to carry out further attacks in crowded areas, primarily in Istanbul. “All provincial police units have taken action to try to capture the three terrorists suspected of being ISIS members planning sensational attacks,” the news agency AA said, citing unnamed security sources and describing them as part of an “active cell” in Turkey.
Also on Monday, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country would use all its military and intelligence might to battle “one of the biggest and bloodiest terrorist waves in its history.”
Meanwhile, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon described Turkey as “awash in terrorism”.
In mid-February, 28 people were killed and 61 injured in a blast in Ankara, when a car bomb, reportedly targeting military personnel, went off close to the parliament building. One more blast, caused by a suicide car bombing, hit the center of Ankara on 13 March, with at least 37 people killed and 125 injured in the explosion.
‘I wish all the Israelis were dead’: Turkish official fired after offensive tweet
Shortly after the terrorist attack, a member of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) carried out her own verbal attack, posting to her Twitter account: “I wish the wounded Israeli tourists were all dead.”
The tweet from Irem Aktas, the head of AKP’s media relations and women’s outreach department in the Turkish Foreign Ministry, was quickly re-tweeted by those who oppose Turkish President Erdogan and the AKP, and was met with widespread condemnation.
Aktas claimed her Twitter account had been hacked. Several hours after the tweet, an AKP official announced that Aktas had been expelled from the party. Israeli officials also harshly condemned the offensive tweet.