The explosion that killed six people and injured 81 others in Istanbul on Sunday was deemed a terrorist attack, according to Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay.
“We consider it to be a terrorist act as a result of an attacker, whom we consider to be a woman, detonating the bomb,” Oktay told reporters on Sunday.
Istanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya said the blast occurred on Istiklal Street in Beyoglu Square, in the heart of Turkey’s largest city.
“We wish God’s mercy on those who lost their lives and a speedy recovery to the injured,” wrote Yerlikaya on Twitter.
Among the victims are Yusuf Meydan, a secretary in Turkey’s Ministry of Family and Social Services, and his daughter Ecrin.
Witness Tariq Keblaoui said he was shopping on Istiklal Street when the blast occurred about 10 meters (32.8 feet) away.
“People were scattering immediately,” said Keblaoui, a Lebanese-based journalist finalizing his vacation in the city.
“Very shortly after, I could see how many injured were on the ground,” Keblaoui explained to reporters. During the incident, he says he saw dead bodies and seriously injured victims.
“There was a man in the store bleeding from his ears and his legs, and his friends were crying near him,” said Keblaoui.
On Sunday afternoon, Istiklal Street was packed with visitors when the blast occurred.
“It went very quickly from a very peaceful Sunday with a very crowded street full of tourists to being what looked like the aftermath of a war zone,” Keblaoui explained.
In an earlier statement Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the explosion might have been a terrorist attack, but he could not confirm it.
“It may be wrong if we say this is definitely terror, but according to preliminary findings, what my governors told us, that there is a smell of terror here,” Erdogan told reporters.
CCTV footage is being reviewed by authorities, he said.
“All the responsible figures will be identified and punished,” declared the president.
During a press conference in Jakarta, Erdogan said he and his delegation would continue to attend the G20 summit.
The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has launched an investigation, the official Anadolu news agency reported. There have been at least eight prosecutors assigned, according to the vice president.
According to Anadolu, the city’s criminal court has banned all visual and audio coverage of the explosion, as well as postings on social media sites.
Around the world, condolences poured in after news of the explosion.
Emmanuel Macron shared his sympathies with the Turkish people after his own country suffered a deadly terror attack exactly seven years earlier.
A total of 130 people were killed in the Paris terror attacks in 2015
“On this day so symbolic for our Nation, while we think of the victims who fell on November 13, 2015, the Turkish people are struck by an attack in their heart, Istanbul,” said Macron in a tweet on Sunday. “To the Turks: we share your pain. We stand with you in the fight against terrorism.”
Following Sunday’s deadly blast, European Council President Charles Michel offered his condolences.
“Horrific news from Istanbul tonight,” he said. “All our thoughts are with those currently responding and the people of Türkiye at this very distressing time.”
The NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg tweeted his “deepest condolences” to the Turkish people, adding that NATO “stands in solidarity with our ally.”
In a statement issued Sunday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre strongly condemned today’s violence in Istanbul. “Our thoughts are with those who were injured and our deepest condolences go to those who lost loved ones.”
In a tweet, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed his “deep sadness” at the blast. “I offer my condolences to the families of those who lost their lives and wish a speedy recovery to the injured,” Zelensky said. “The pain of the friendly Turkish people is our pain.”