Suicide bomber strikes central Istanbul

Media captionFootage showed police and ambulances heading to the scene

A suicide bomb attack at a busy shopping area in the Turkish city of Istanbul has killed at least four people, officials say.

Another 36 were injured – 12 foreign nationals – as the bomb went off near a government building on Istiklal Street.

No-one has admitted carrying out the attack, the latest to target Turkey in recent months.

The Turkish government has blamed Kurdish militants for previous attacks and has retaliated against them.

Last week, Kurdish rebel group TAK admitted killing 35 people in the capital, Ankara, saying it was in revenge for Turkish military operations against Kurds.

Last month, a bomb attack on a military convoy in Ankara killed 28 people and wounded dozens more.

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Medics rushed to try to help a wounded man

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Turkish police, forensics and emergency services work at the blast scene

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Some people are in a serious condition, officials say

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Police quickly cordoned off the area

In October 2015, more than 100 people were killed in a double suicide bombing at a Kurdish peace rally in Ankara.

Saturday’s attack in Istanbul – Turkey’s largest city – occurred at about 11:00 local time (09:00 GMT).

Uwes Shehadeh was some 500m away when he heard “a horrific and horrible noise”.

“People didn’t know what was going on. It was very chaotic. Everyone was screaming and running away,” he told the BBC.

“Istanbul is on high alert and people are very worried as to what will happen next.”

Three Israeli tourists were among those injured, local media report say. The Israeli foreign ministry has confirmed Israelis were wounded, but not given the number or said what condition they are in.

Both the so-called Islamic State (IS) and Kurdish militants have claimed recent attacks in Turkey.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said terror groups are targeting civilians because they are losing their struggle against Turkish security forces.

Turkey is part of the US-led coalition against IS and allows coalition planes to use its air base at Incirlik for raids on Iraq and Syria.

It has also been carrying out a campaign of bombardment against Syrian Kurdish fighters of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which it regards as a extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

A two-year-old ceasefire between Turkey and the PKK broke down last summer.

Since then, more than 340 members of Turkey’s security forces have been killed along with at least 300 Kurdish fighters and more than 200 civilians.

Recent attacks in Turkey

  • March 2016: 37 people killed by Kurdish militants in Ankara
  • February 2016: 28 killed in military convoy in Ankara
  • January 2016: 12 German tourists are killed in a suspected IS suicide bombing in Istanbul
  • October 2015: More than 100 people are killed in a double suicide bombing at a Kurdish peace rally in Ankara

How dangerous is Turkey’s unrest?

Tears and destruction amid PKK crackdown

Turkey in midst of hideous vortex

The TAK (Kurdistan Freedom Hawks) was formed in 2004. It is regarded as the hard-line offshoot of the PKK, rejecting any attempt at ceasefire talks with the Turkish state.

The PKK has been fighting for autonomy for Turkey’s Kurdish minority for decades and has carried out regular attacks on Turkish security forces.

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