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Terrorism

Turkey declares national day of mourning following Istanbul attack

Ankara has declared a day of mourning after a terror strike outside a soccer stadium on Saturday night in Istanbul killed 38 people and wounded 155. The target was police officers, according to the Interior Ministry.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim ordered flags to be flown at half-mast on Sunday as Turkey came to terms with its latest large-scale attack, this one targeting police officers, killing 30 of them together with seven civilians and one unidentified person. On Sunday, Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu told reporters that 13 people had been arrested in connection with the "terrorist attack."

Funeral services were held at midday at Istanbul's police headquarters for some of the officers killed. Yildirim, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other top officials were in attendance as police officers carried the coffins, covered by the Turkish flag.

Erdogan canceled a scheduled trip to Kazakhstan, according to his office and convened a security meeting of cabinet ministers on Sunday. He said the aim of the attack,  which happened after a football match, was to cause the maximum number of casualties. Adding that his government would do its best to overcome terror. 

"Nobody should doubt that with God's will, we as a country and a nation will overcome terror, terrorist organizations ... and the forces behind them," Erdogan said in a statement.

The first blast, a car bomb, occurred on Saturday night outside the Vodafone Arena, home to Istanbul's Besiktas football team. A minute afterwards, a second explosion struck an adjacent park. According to Soylu, the first explosion took place at an assembly area for riot police two hours after a match between Besiktas and Bursaspor. The second attack came when police surrounded the suspected bomber in nearby Macka Park.

Watch video 02:29

Dorian Jones from Istanbul on suspected car bomb outside a soccer stadium in central Istanbul

Soylu raised the initial reported death toll of 29 to 38. He said 136 people remained hospitalized Sunday after the
attack, including 14 in intensive care.

The Kurdish militant group TAK claimed responsibility for the blast, Reuters news agency reported on Sunday, citing a TAK member who said Turkish civilians were not the direct target of the bombings.

Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus had told the private news channel CNN Turk that "arrows point to the PKK," the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, which has waged a decades-long insurgency. That preliminary assessment was echoed by the interior minister. Ankara is engaged in rooting out Kurdish insurgency in its southeast.

The "Islamic State" (IS) group has also been blamed for previous strikes, including one in June, when militants killed 45 people in a gun attack on Istanbul's airport. Last week, the group threatened to target Ankara's "security, military, economic and media establishment."

Turkey is a member of NATO and the US-led coalition to wipe out IS, which has seized large areas of Iraq and Syria, declaring them part of its "caliphate."

mg,jm/jlw (Reuters, AFP)

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