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The Guardian: Turkey arrests dozens of people and restricts internet access after terrorist attack in Istanbul

14-11-2022 |

Six people died and 81 were injured when a bomb struck Istanbul’s popular pedestrian thoroughfare İstiklal Avenue, timed to strike when it was most crowded. Turkey’s justice minister, Bekir Bozdağ, said that “a woman sat on a bench there for 45 minutes”, and that the explosion occurred moments after she left.

The Turkish interior minister, Süleyman Soylu, said early on Monday the attack was planned in a Kurdish-majority city in northern Syria, blaming militants from the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK) and the People’s Defence Units (YPG).

“Our assessment is that the order for the deadly terror attack came from Ayn al-Arab in northern Syria, where the PKK/YPG has its Syrian headquarters,” he said.

While Kurdish militants and attackers linked to Islamic State (IS) have been blamed for attacks on central Istanbul in the past, the attack has not been officially claimed by any group so far.

Istanbul police said that 46 people had been detained in total.

The Turkish presidential communications chief, Fahrettin Altun, alluded to the potential impact on US-Turkey relations, stemming from Ankara’s long-term displeasure with the US backing of Kurdish groups in northern Syria.

“The international community must pay attention. Terror attacks against our civilians are direct and indirect consequences of some countries’ support for terror groups. They must immediately cease their direct and indirect support if they want Türkiye’s friendship,” Altun said.

Soylu added that Turkey “will not accept messages of condolence” from the US concerning the attack.

Speaking shortly before departing for Tuesday’s G20 summit in Bali, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan spoke of a “treacherous attack”, adding: “Those responsible will be punished.”

Videos posted online from the moment of the attack showed terrified people running and trying to seek cover in nearby shops as a fireball billowed overhead.

Turkey’s media ombudsman, RTÜK, placed a temporary ban on reporting of the explosion, preventing broadcasters from showing the moment the blast struck or the immediate aftermath, “to avoid broadcasts that may create fear, panic and turmoil in society and may serve the purposes of terrorist organisations”.

The web freedom monitoring organisation NetBlocks said network data showed the Turkish authorities were restricting access to social media platforms including Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Facebook after the attack.

“Access to information is vital in times of emergency. Research shows that social media restrictions increase misinformation after security incidents and attacks,” said the NetBlocks founder, Alp Toker.

Source: The Guardian