A far-left Turkish group has claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at a police station in Istanbul’s historic Sultanahmet district that killed one officer and wounded another, saying it was to “settle scores” with the government.
A female suicide bomber, named by local media as Elif Sultan Kalsen, entered the police station on Tuesday, saying in English she had lost her purse before tossing explosives at police and blowing herself up. The three-storey building lies across the square from the Ayasofya Museum and Blue Mosque, the biggest draws for millions of tourists who visit Istanbul each year.
The Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) said on its website the attack was against the ruling AK Party over the killing of 15-year-old Berkin Elvan, who died last March after nine months in a coma from a head wound sustained during anti-government protests.
“It is the same state which shot Berkin Elvan and which protects the thief ministers,” the statement said, an apparent reference to a corruption scandal that erupted in December 2013 around the inner circle of President and then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “Do you think by doing this your ideologies will prevail?” Mr Erdogan asked.
The DHKP-C also claimed responsibility for a grenade attack on police at a historic palace near the Prime Minister’s office in Istanbul last week. The Foreign Office in London issued a warning urging visitors to Sultanahmet to follow the advice of authorities due to a high threat of “terrorism”. The US, EU and Turkey list the DHKP-C as a terrorist organisation. Kurdish separatists and Islamist radicals have also been behind bombings in Turkey.
European governments see the main security risk in Turkey emanating from Syria, but a European diplomat in Ankara said they would be watching to see if this is a new campaign.
A series of arrests across Turkey and Europe over the last decade have significantly weakened the group, which traces its roots to Communist movements in the 1970s, but experts say it still poses a serious threat.