Ahlam Albashirh, the main suspect who left the bomb that killed six people and injured 81 others on Istanbul’s Istiklal Avenue has been arrested, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said early Monday.
Soylu was speaking to reporters at the scene of the explosion, which tore down the busy shopping street.
He said 21 others linked to the bomber were also detained, adding the existing findings showed it was an attack perpetrated by the PKK/YPG terrorist group, referring to a branch of the PKK terrorist group in Syria’s north, bordering Türkiye.
“We have evaluated that the instruction for the attack came from Kobani,” Soylu told reporters, adding that the bomber had “passed through Afrin in northern Syria.”
In its more than 40-year terror campaign against Türkiye, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Türkiye, the United States and the European Union – has been responsible for the deaths of at least 40,000 people, including women, children and infants.
Istanbul attack suspect came to Istanbul four months ago: State media
The suspect in the Istiklal street bombing came to Istanbul about four months ago and worked in a textile business until the day of the attack, Turkish state media said, quoting the police.
According to reports, she lived with two other Syrians in the Istanbul district of Esenler.
The woman said she was trained by Kurdish fighters in Syria and entered Turkey through northwest Syria’s Afrin region, the police said.
Next step for perpetrators was to escape to Greece: Interior Minister
Following the explosion, the suspect ran to take a taxi to Istanbul’s Esenyurt district, which is located far from the Taksim area where the blast occurred, Al Jazeera’s Sinem Koseoglu said reporting from Istanbul.
According to Istanbul police, 1,200 security cameras were checked and raids were conducted at 21 different locations the woman was identified to have links with before she was arrested at 2:50am.
“The Turkish interior minister said that the police had a voice recording of a talk among PKK members that said she should be killed before police captures her,” Koseoglu said.
“The minister said the next step for the perpetrators was to escape to Greece before being captured by Turkish police.”
Tension between Turkey and Greece has escalated over recent months, largely surrounding disputes over border issues.
Turkey does not accept US condolences: Interior minister
Turkey’s interior minister has rejected a message of condolence from the United States.
“We do not accept the US embassy’s message of condolences,” Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said in a response designed to focus attention on US support for groups Ankara considers to be offshoots of the PKK, such as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre issued a statement on Sunday, saying: “The United States strongly condemns the act of violence that took place today in Istanbul, Turkiye.”
Syrian Kurdish-led SDF denies involvement in Istiklal attack
Syria’s Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has denied any role in a bomb attack that killed six people in central Istanbul and that Turkey has blamed on Kurdish fighters.
“Our forces have nothing to do with the Istanbul bombing,” said Mazloum Abdi, the chief commander of the United States-allied SDF.
Turkey considers the US-backed SDF a “terrorist” group.
Timeline of major attacks in Turkey since 2015
Sunday’s blast is the first such explosion in Turkey’s largest city in several years.
Turkey was hit by a string of deadly bombings between 2015 and 2017 by ISIL (ISIS) and groups affiliated with the outlawed Kurdish PKK group.
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