An explosion has torn through the centre of Turkey’s largest city Istanbul. Reports say it was a suicide bombing on a main shopping street in Taksim, an area popular with tourists.
In an update on the situation, Istanbul’s Governor Vasip Şahin said five people were known to have died – including the suicide bomber.
Three Israelis and one Iranian citizen were among the dead, Turkish media reported.
The number of injured was set at 36 according to Turkey’s Health Minister Mehmet Müezzinoğlu. Three of the wounded are in a critical condition.
Twelve of those hurt are said to be foreigners – half of them from Israel. The country’s foreign ministry has confirmed that some of its citizens were hurt.
The explosion was captured on a nearby security camera. People are seen running from the scene in panic immediately afterwards.
İstiklal Caddesi'nde bombanın patlama anı kameralara yansıdı
Taksim İstiklal Caddesi'nde bombanın patlama anı kameralara yansıdı. http://evrn.sl/w78bDPosted by EVRENSEL GAZETESİ – www.evrensel.net on Saturday, 19 March 2016
The Istanbul governor also said that rumours of attacks elsewhere in Istanbul were false.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing.
Reuters quoted two Turkish officials as saying new evidence suggested the suicide bomber may have come from the self-proclaimed Islamic State or the outlawed Kurdish Workers Party (PKK).
Earlier, Reuters quoted an official as saying that initial findings indicated that either the PKK or an affiliate carried out the bombing.
TV pictures showed an area being cordoned off by police in Istiklal Street, a wide pedestrian boulevard lined with international stores and shopping centres. Helicopters were seen circling overhead.
The area is usually busy; hundreds of thousands are said to pass through every day.
There are reports that the bomber was on the way to an even more crowded spot at another target, and may have been deterred by police and detonated the bomb “out of fear”.
The device reportedly went off in front of a kebab restaurant and the local governor’s office.
On Thursday and Friday Germany temporarily closed its embassy in Ankara, and its consulate and a German school in Istanbul, after the government said it had received intelligence about a potential attack.
Reports say a broadcast ban has been imposed on Turkish media reporting anything other than official accounts of the bombing, in line with restrictions brought in by President Erdogan’s government.
CNN Türk ENG (@CNNTURK_ENG) March 19, 2016
Turkey has been hit by a rising tide of violence in recent months.
Last Sunday (March 13) a car bomb in the centre of the Turkish capital Ankara killed 37 people. The attack was later claimed by the TAK, an offshoot of the PKK.
Last month 28 people were killed and dozens wounded in an attack on a military convoy in Ankara. In October more than 100 people were killed in a double-suicide bombing at a Kurdish peace rally in the Turkish capital.
Turkey has been fighting a security threat on several fronts. The authorities have been battling Kurdish militants mainly in the southeast of the country since the collapse of a ceasefire last July. Meanwhile several attacks have been blamed on the self-proclaimed Islamic State, operating from its base in neighbouring Syria. Turkey is part of the US-led coalition against ISIL and a Turkish airbase is used for raids on Iraq and Syria.
The Turkish military has said that its air force carried out strikes against PKK bases in northern Iraq on Friday and in the early hours of Saturday – before the Istanbul bombing.