Deadly Istanbul bombing sparks fear and defiance in Turkey | New

The explosion, which killed six people and injured 81, brings back dark memories of a series of attacks from 2015 to 2017.

Istanbul, Turkey – Crowds have started to return to Istiklal Avenue, the busy pedestrian street in central Istanbul where a bomb blast on Sunday killed six people and injured 81. Residents expressed shock and defiance after the offensive.

Furkan works in a chocolate factory a few steps from where the bomb went off.

“Around 4:20 p.m. [13:20 GMT] we were smoking a cigarette by the door,” he told Al Jazeera. “All of a sudden the explosion happened. We were amazed. It was a terrifying situation.”

He said a crowd quickly formed in the area and he was worried about the possibility of a second bomb going off. The store closed for the rest of the day, but was back to work on Monday.

The police had closed all entrances to Istiklal after the explosion. The street was reopened on Monday although the main entrance was temporarily blocked by police until 3:45 p.m. (1235 GMT) as politicians visited the site of the blast, where flowers were placed in memory of the victims. Istiklal was lined with Turkish flags, as many as 1,200 by some accounts.

The blast killed a nine-year-old girl and her father, a teenage girl and her mother, and a married couple. All were Turkish citizens.

On Monday, authorities said 57 injured had been released after being treated while 24 injured, including two in critical condition, remained in hospital.

Istiklal had a heavy police presence and was not as busy as usual on Monday, but nonetheless there were many pedestrians walking down the street.

Metincan Alkan, 30, works at Marlen, a bar located in an alley not far from the site of the explosion. He said businesses in the district would be hit hard after the attack.

“People will go back to [stay] away from Beyoglu,” he said. “I mean, it’s bad for us from every angle.”

Mustafa Topcuoglu, 53, is a regular on Istiklal Avenue, known for his icli kofte – bags of Bulgarian wheat filled with spiced meat – which he sells at a small street stall a few minutes from where the explosion occurred.

He told Al Jazeera he was upstairs at his adjacent restaurant and heard the explosion, but was back at his post on Monday afternoon.

“The purpose of terrorism is to scare people, create an atmosphere of panic and keep them locked in their homes,” Topcuoglu said. “Whatever happens, we still came, we are at work, we continue our work and we have reopened.”

Relatives and friends of Arzu Ozsoy and his 15-year-old daughter Yagmur Ucar, who died in Sunday's blast
Relatives and friends of Arzu Ozsoy and his 15-year-old daughter Yagmur Ucar, who died in Sunday’s blast, attend their funeral in Istanbul [Emrah Gurel/AP Photo]

The person suspected of planting the bomb on a bench, a Syrian woman named Ahlam Albasir, was arrested Monday morning in the Istanbul suburb of Kucukcekmece. At least 46 people had been taken into custody in connection with the attack in the early evening.

According to media reports, the Istanbul Police Department said Albasir confessed to having ties to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its Syrian affiliate, the People’s Defense Units (YPG).

However, in statements on Monday, the PKK and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which are mainly made up of YPG fighters, denied any responsibility for the attack.

The blast brought back dark memories of a series of attacks carried out by PKK-linked groups and ISIL (ISIL) across Turkey from 2015 to 2017. In March 2016, an ISIL-linked suicide bomber killed four people on Istiklal Avenue.

Soner Cagaptay, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute, told Al Jazeera that further violence is likely to affect Turkey’s legislative and presidential elections scheduled for June.

“It’s a pretty worrying development, and we’ll have to wait and see who’s behind it and if there’s a group that’s going to take responsibility,” he said.

“This attack, if followed by others, could lead to a swing in the electorate to the right and a consolidation around the security candidate,” Cagaptay said. “This is what happened the last time Turkey suffered a series of terrorist attacks in 2015.”

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