ISTANBUL (Dispatches) -- At least six people were killed and 53 others injured in an explosion on Istanbul’s best-known commercial street, according to Turkey’s leader.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described Sunday’s blast on Istiklal Avenue as an attack and vowed to identify those responsible for it. He said the Turkish nation will not bow to terrorism.
There was no immediate explanation or claim of responsibility.
Five prosecutors were assigned to investigate the explosion, state-run Anadolu news agency said.
Videos online showed bodies lying on the road. Turkey’s media watchdog imposed a temporary ban on reporting on the explosion — a move that prevents broadcasters from showing videos of the moment of the blast or its aftermath. The Supreme Council of Radio and Television has imposed similar bans in the past, following attacks and accidents.
Istanbul has been the scene of attacks before. On New Year’s Day in 2017, a gunman shot and killed 39 people at a nightclub. Almost 80 others were also injured. In 2003, a series of suicide bombings was carried out using trucks at four locations in the city.
Ambulances on Sunday rushed to the scene on the packed Istiklal Avenue, which police quickly cordoned off. The area, in the Beyoglu district of Turkey’s largest city, had been crowded as usual at the weekend with shoppers, tourists and families.
A Reuters reporter saw a helicopter overhead and several ambulances in nearby Taksim Square.
“When I heard the explosion, I was petrified, people froze, looking at each other. Then people started running away. What else can you do,” said Mehmet Akus, 45, a worker in a restaurant on Istiklal.
“My relatives called me, they know I work on Istiklal. I reassured them,” he said.
The nearby Kasimpasa police station told Reuters all crews were at the scene but gave no further details.
Local media said crime inspectors were on the scene and Anadolu reported that the Istanbul chief public prosecutor’s office had launched an investigation into the blast.
While the cause of the blast was unknown, Istanbul and other Turkish cities have been targeted in the past by Kurdish separatists, takfiri militants and other groups.
The Turkish Red Crescent said blood was being transferred to nearby hospitals.
“My condolences to those who lost their lives in the explosion on Istiklal Avenue,” Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu said on Twitter.