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Deadly suicide blast hits Istanbul tourist area;

Officials claim Islamic State links

Turkish police block

streets after an explosion in Istanbuls Sultanahmet district, a main tourist area, on
Tuesday. (Reuters)
Object 1

By Erin Cunningham and Brian Murphy- January 12

BAGHDAD A suicide bomber believed linked to the Islamic State in Syria set off a
powerful blast Tuesday in one of Istanbuls most popular tourist districts, officials said,
killing at least 10 people and injuring 15 with reports citing Germans as among the
main casualties.
The attack in the shadow of the famous Blue Mosque was a further sign of the
countrys deepening instability in a region wracked by war and the expanding reach of
groups such as the Islamic State, which uses Turkey as a critical lifeline for recruits,
supplies and oil smuggling.
Turkeys prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, described the bomber as a member of the
Islamic State, but gave no other immediate details.
The blast also struck at the heart of Istanbuls important tourism trade, reflecting
similar tactics used by militants against internationally known sites in countries
including Tunisia and Egypt.
[Turkey key to Islamic States underground economy]
The scene after deadly explosion in central Istanbul

At least 10 dead and 15 injured in deadly blast.

Nine of those killed were Germans, the Associated Press reported, citing sources in
the Turkish prime ministers office. The other victim was a Peruvian man, Perus
foreign ministry said.
In addition, at least 15 people were injured in the explosion, including nine Germans
and other foreigners, officials said.
Turkish officials also have blamed the Islamic State for recent bombings elsewhere in
Turkey. At the same time, Kurdish separatists and domestic left-wing groups have
carried out other attacks in the country.
I strongly condemn the terror incident that occurred in Istanbul ... an attack by a
Syria-rooted suicide bomber, said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Turkeys deputy prime minister, Numan Kurtulmu, told reporters that the attacker was
identified as a 28-year-old Syrian. Turkish media outlets later identified the bomber as
Nabil Fadli, who was born in Saudi Arabia.
It was unclear if Fadli was a dual Syrian-Saudi citizen, or if he was born in Saudi
Arabia to a Syrian family.
[NATO-member Turkey on front lines of Western-Russian divide over Syria]

The blast occurred just before 10:30 a.m. in the Sultanahmet district, an area that
includes the 400-year-old Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia complex, a former
Byzantine-era basilica.
The vast plazas and surrounding streets are normally busy with merchants, vendors
and visitors, including many part of tour groups. The blast was centered near a local
tram station close to the Obelisk of Theodosius, an ancient Egyptian monolith brought
to Istanbul then known as Constantinople in the 4th century.
In Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at least nine Germans were injured
in the blast. The Dogan agency also reported that Norwegians and a Peruvian were
among those hurt.
Today Istanbul was hit. Paris has been hit. Tunisia has been hit. Ankara has been hit
before, Merkel said in Berlin. International terrorism is once again showing its cruel
and inhuman face today.
[Turkey claims to break up New Years attack plot]
The attack in Istanbul comes as Turkey is grappling with instability from the five-yearold crisis in neighboring Syria. Turkish forces have not directly intervened in the Syrian
conflict but have been under Western pressure to crack down on the cross-border flow
of people and supplies to Islamic State strongholds in Syria.

Turkey is also a main backer of rebel groups opposing Syrian President Bashar alAssad, and it has recently stepped up its decades-old fight against Kurdish
separatists. Other Turkish political cells have staged their own attacks.
If todays attack was perpetrated by the Islamic State, it would reflect a shift in the
groups strategy and herald a broader campaign against Turkey, said Firas Abi Ali,
senior analyst at IHS Country Risk, a global risk analysis firm.
But such a move will likely provoke a significant backlash by the Turkish government,
Ali said.
A year ago, a Chechen woman believed linked to militant factions blew herself up
outside a police post in Sultanahmet. One police officer also was killed.
There were two major suicide bomb attacks on peace activists in the countrys
southeast last year, killing more than 100 people. The government blamed the Islamic
State for those explosions, but the militant group never asserted responsibility.
[Pentagon pushes allies to help choke off Islamic State networks]
Just before New Years, Turkish officials said they foiled a plot to launch a wave of
attacks over the holiday.
Turkey last summer opened its Incirlik air base to U.S. warplanes carrying out
airstrikes against Islamic State positions in Syria.
Given that the Islamic State has established a significant logistics and support base
network in Turkey used to smuggle people and supplies into its territories the
Islamic State most likely has the capability to launch an extended terrorist campaign
inside Turkey, said Ali, the security analyst.
The groups latest videos, in which its fighters threaten Turkey, suggest that it
calculates that a confrontation with Turkey is inevitable, he added.
Tourism directly contributes more than $30 billion to Turkeys gross domestic product
each year, according to government records. That is nearly 4 percent of the GDP
overall, but Turkeys tourism is heavily concentrated in locations such as Istanbul and
the countrys Aegean and Mediterranean coasts.
Nearly 40 million people visited Turkey in 2014, the Ministry of Tourism and Culture
By striking in the heart of Istanbuls old city, which has many mosques, museums,
and tourists ... ISIS is also targeting Turkeys lucrative tourism industry, said Soner
Cagaptay, an expert in Turkish politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
ISIS is one of the acronyms for the Islamic State.
Murphy reported from Washington.
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