Explosion in busy area of central Istanbul kills four, injures 38

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The cause of the blast on Istiklal Avenue, a pedestrian thoroughfare in Turkey’s biggest city, remains unclear.

An explosion on Istanbul’s popular pedestrian Istiklal Avenue has killed four people dead and injured 38, the city’s governor has said.

Istanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya announced the death toll on Twitter and said the explosion occurred at about 4:20 pm (13:20 GMT) on Sunday.

The cause of the explosion was not clear.

“There are strong suspicions that this was a suicide bomb, but we don’t have any official statement yet [on that],” Al Jazeera’s Sinem Koseoglu said from Istanbul.

Broadcaster CNN Turk said in an early report that 11 people were injured.

A video posted online showed flames erupting and a loud bang, as pedestrians turned and ran away.

Other footage showed ambulances, fire trucks and police at the scene. Social media users said shops were shuttered and the avenue closed down.

The avenue is a crowded thoroughfare popular with tourists and locals, lined by shops and restaurants.

The Turkish Red Crescent said blood was being transferred to nearby hospitals. Turkey’s RTUK regulator imposed a broadcast ban on coverage of the blast around an hour after it occurred.

“My condolences to those who lost their lives in the explosion on Istiklal Avenue,” Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu said on Twitter.

Ambulances and security on Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul [Kemal Aslan/Reuters]

Turkey was hit by a string of deadly bombings between 2015 and 2017 by ISIL (ISIS) and by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Al Jazeera’s Koseoglu said the explosion comes as a shock, as there have not been any recent warnings over attacks in the city.

“But security measures have remained high in the area,” she said.

Murat Aslan, a security analyst, told Al Jazeera that the place the blast took place in a very crowded area with maximum security precautions.

“The police in general is on the highest level in this area,” he said.

“There are a lot of security cameras in the area. I think the police will identify exactly who did this and how he or she did this if it is a terror attack,” he added.

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