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Istanbul bombing: Terror attack death toll rises to 38 including 30 police as PKK offshoot group claims attacks

Kurdish militant group TAK claims responsibility for attack which is the latest in an escalating scale of violence in the country

Caroline Mortimer
Sunday 11 December 2016 09:56 GMT
At least 166 people were wounded by the blast, the Turkish interior minister confirmed
At least 166 people were wounded by the blast, the Turkish interior minister confirmed (Reuters)

The death toll from twin bomb blasts outside a football stadium in Istanbul has risen to 38, including 30 police officers.

An offshoot group of Kurdish militant organisation the PKK – the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons, also known as TAK – has claimed responsibility for the blasts.

Officials revealed the increased number of victims of Saturday's attack, which is believed to have targeted police.

The explosions occurred outside the Vodaphone Arena stadium of Besiktas football club while they were playing a game against Bursaspor.

Turkish interior minister, Süleyman Soylu, told the Hurriyet newspaper that the blasts had occurred near a police bus.

He said: “We think a vehicular bomb was set off with a handheld device in the area where our special forces were congregated.

“A couple of minutes later a suspect was identified in Macka by our security forces. They were surrounded by our police. But they set off their bomb shortly after the vehicle bomb went off.”

A total of 166 people were injured in the attack, including 23 people who remain in a critical condition in hospital.

One witness, Omer Yilmiz, described the attack as "like hell".

He said: "The flames went all the way up to the sky.

"I was drinking tea at the cafe next to the mosque. People ducked under the tables, women began crying. Football fans drinking tea at the cafe sought shelter, it was horrible."

The attack is the latest in a series of violence which has plagued Turkey for over a year.

Following the end of the ceasefire between Kurdish separatists and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in summer 2015, the PKK has stepped up its attacks on the country.

In October, at least 17 people were killed in a car bomb attack in the southeastern province of Hakkari which targeted soldiers.

Since 2015, more than 600 Turkish security personnel and thousands of PKK militants have been killed in the clashes, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.

Meanwhile, the country is also facing an insurgency by Isis, which has also carried multiple attacks in the past year including an assault by gunman on Istanbul's Ataturk airport which left 45 people dead.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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