17 suspects arrested over Istiklal blast

A Turkish court has arrested 17 people suspected of being involved in the Nov. 13 bomb attack on Istanbul's iconic İstiklal Avenue, which killed six people.


A Turkish court ordered the pre-trial detention of 17 people suspected of being involved in an explosion this week in Istanbul's Istiklal Avenue that killed six people, the state-owned Anadolu news agency said on Nov. 18.

The detainees were among a group of almost 50 people Istanbul police had rounded up earlier this week after the attack, and include the suspected bomber, which police identified as Syrian national Ahlam Albashir.

Anadolu said the others detainees included the person who drove the bomber, and others the authorities have accused of "murder with a bomb" and "disrupting the unity and integrity of the state". More than half the suspects detained were to be deported, the agency reported.

No group has claimed responsibility for the blast, which injured more than 80 people on Istiklal Avenue, a busy and historic pedestrian strip. Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu quickly blamed Kurdish militants for the blast and police have said the suspected bomber was trained by Kurdish militants in Syria.

The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which includes the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, have denied involvement.

Anadolu quoted suspected bomber Albashir as telling police and prosecutors that she had arrived in Turkey in July after taking orders from the YPG. Albashir was also quoted as saying that she did not know what was in the bag that she was told to leave at the scene of the explosion, and that it was given to her by another suspect who later fled Turkey.

A spokesman for the YPG did not immediately respond to Reuters request for comment.

The PKK has led an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984. It is considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

Ankara says the YPG is a wing of the PKK. Washington has allied with the YPG in the fight against Islamic State in Syria, causing a rift with NATO ally Turkey.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Nov. 17 13 people injured in the attack were still in hospital, with two in intensive care.