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Suicide attack rocks Istanbul high street

At least five people have died and 20 others have been injured in a suicide bombing in Istanbul's shopping district in northwestern Turkey. It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the attack.

The blast took place on Istiklal Caddesi, a pedestrian street in Istanbul, at around 11 a.m. local time (1200 UTC) on Saturday. Istanbul's governor Vasip Sahin said five people died in the attack, whilst Health Minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu said 36 others were injured, seven seriously. Twelve of the wounded were thought to be foreigners.

DW's correspondent in Istanbul Tom Stevenson reported that police cordoned off much of the street soon after the blast and helicopters could be heard overhead.

Several hours after the blast, Germany's Foreign Office issued a statement advising all Germans in Istanbul to stay inside their hotels.

The German embassy in Ankara and the consulate in Istanbul were closed earlier this week following a "very concrete" tip-off about a threat to German institutions in Turkey. Two German school were also closed.

Saturday's explosion came just hours after five people were arrested over last Sunday's car bomb attack in Ankara in which 37 people died. Authorities found that a woman, who had links to the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in Syria, was responsible for the blast.

Turkey has stepped up security in recent days ahead of the Kurdish spring festival on March 21. Many Turkish Kurds usually use the celebration to assert their ethnic identity and demand greater rights.

ksb/jlw (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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