[Breaking news update at 1 p.m. ET]
An explosion that killed at least six people and injured at least 81 others in Istantbul on Sunday is considered to be a terrorist attack, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said, according to state news agency Anadolu.
“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.
[Previous story, published at 12:22 p.m. ET]
At least six people have been killed and 53 injured in an explosion in the heart of the Turkish city of Istanbul on Sunday afternoon, according to the city’s governor.
Those who were injured are being treated, the governor, Ali Yerlikaya, added.
“We wish God’s mercy on those who lost their lives and a speedy recovery to the injured,” he tweeted.
Yerlikaya earlier confirmed that the explosion took place on Istiklal Street in Beyoglu Square and that emergency services were at the scene. “Developments will be shared with the public,” he said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the explosion might be terror-related, but that it is not certain at this point.
In a news conference, Erdogan said: “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.”
The president also said that, according to preliminary information, a woman played a role in the explosion and that the Istanbul police chief and authorities in the Istanbul Governor’s office were reviewing CCTV footage.
“All the responsible figures will be identified and punished,” Erdogan said.
He added that he and his delegation would be departing shortly for the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, as planned.
An investigation has been launched into the explosion, the country’s official Anadolu news agency reported.
Istanbul’s Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has begun the investigation, with five public prosecutors assigned to it, according to the agency.
The city’s criminal court issued a broadcast ban on all visual and audio news, as well on social media sites, related to the explosion, Anadolu added.
Local media reports and images from the area showed a large number of emergency vehicles in the aftermath of the blast, with at least one person receiving medical attention. Some people could be seen fleeing the scene in the pictures and the area was being cordoned off by security services.
One eyewitness, journalist Tariq Keblaoui, told CNN that several people could be seen lying on the ground following the blast on Istiklal Street.
Keblaoui said he was in a store on Istiklal Street when the explosion occurred about 10 meters ahead of him.
The extent of the injuries of those he saw was not clear but several people were bleeding from their legs and arms, he said.
Keblaoui said Istiklal Street, a popular tourist area, was heavily crowded on Sunday. Istiklal Street is one of the main streets leading to Taksim Square.
Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu called for assistance for police and health worker teams as they respond to the explosion in the city.
“It is essential to assist our police and health teams regarding the explosion on Istiklal Street, and to avoid posts that may cause fear and panic. All relevant teams are in the region, we will provide healthy information,” he tweeted.
The news of the explosion was met with dismay on the international stage, with Charles Michel, European Council President, saying: “Horrific news from Istanbul tonight. Condolences to the victims of the explosion at Istiqlal.
“All our thoughts are with those currently responding and the people of Türkiye at this very distressing time.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg tweeted his “deepest condolences” to the Turkish people, adding that NATO “stands in solidarity with our ally” Turkey.
Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen expressed his “sincere condolences to the people of Turkey and the citizens of Istanbul,” adding: “In view of the horrific explosion this afternoon in the heart of Beyoğlu my thoughts are with the families of the victims. Wishing a speedy recovery to all injured.”
Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said: “Italy expresses its closeness to the Turkish government and people and its heartfelt condolences for the innocent victims. Our crisis unit is monitoring the situation and contacting our compatriots.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted of his “deep sadness” at the news of the blast. “I offer my condolences to the families of those who lost their lives and wish a speedy recovery to the injured. The pain of the friendly Turkish people is our pain,” he said.