By Jean-Baptiste Carerre
A suicide bomber injured 32 people and created panic in Taksim Square, the busiest area of Istanbul on 31 October. The bombing took place at the Ataturk memorial monument at 10 a.m., targeting a police vehicle stationed on the square. Of the 32 injured, only 15 were policemen, while the 17 remaining victims were civilians passing by.
Akin, who works as a valet at the Marmara Hotel, a palace located on Taksim Square, witnessed the bombing: “I just heard a massive noise and saw smoke coming from the Attaturk monument. People were screaming and running. I ran to see what had happened, and saw people injured. There was a lot of blood and even severed members on the ground.
“I wanted to help, but was stopped immediately by policemen. They said we shouldn’t do anything, and wait for the medics. They arrived very soon and started evacuating the injured. It was all chaotic, and very scary. Everyone was afraid another bomb was going to explode.”
A second bomb could have gone off, since the bomber had been carrying several explosive devices in his backpack but they were successfully diffused by the police.
The entire area was immediately sealed by the police, disturbing traffic in the city.
“As I was heading towards Taksim, I noticed it was even busier than usual,” said Ares Shporta, a student from Kosovo who arrived at Taksim shortly after the bombing.
“When I got nearer, I heard people screaming, and saw a lot of smoke and dust coming from the square. I got alarmed, since I was supposed to meet my mother there but I couldn’t get any closer as the police blocked the whole area around Taksim with barriers. It turned out all alright, with nobody dying, but it still is scary to imagine that one person can block the whole center of Istanbul for hours.”
The attack was partcularly alarming considering the threat of international terrorism currently looming over Western Europe, as Interpol officials declared that France and Great Britain are regarded as potential targets for serious terrorist attacks. The level of security in the two countries, and throughout the continent in general, has been raised.
Several terrorist plots were uncovered in recent weeks, like the plane rigged with explosive from Yemen intercepted in England, or the explosive packages destined for Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi have pronounced the seriousness of these threats.
Even though involvement of Al-Quaeda was at first considered to be behind the Istanbul bombing, since the terrorist organisation had already attacked Turkey in 2003 (targeting two synagogues, and killing 62 people), this theory was soon discarded in favour of the Kurdistan workers’ party (PKK). The attack took place at the end of the ceasefire between the PKK and the Turkish government.
A PKK spokesperson strongly denied any involvement in the attack, stating that they did not want to target civilians, and that they advocated pacifist resolution, even agreeing to a new eight-month ceasefire.
However, further investigations revealed that the bomber, Vedat Acar, was indeed linked to the PKK, having recently travelled through the Turkish-Iraqi border, where a PKK base is known to be located.
Even if the attack is the result of internal Turkish issues, it is still alarming considering the current international climate.