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Turkey blames Kurdish militants for blast and arrests dozens, including suspected bomber

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Turkey blamed Kurdish militants on Monday for an explosion that killed six people in a busy shopping street in Istanbul, and police have detained a Syrian woman suspected of planting the bomb in a series of 47 arrests.

Istanbul police named the suspected attacker Ahlam Albashir, a Syrian national, who was detained during a nighttime raid in Kucukcekmece district.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Syrian-Kurdish YPG militia were responsible for Sunday’s explosion on Istiklal Avenue, an incident that recalls similar attacks in recent years.

Police arrested a female suspect on Monday, who is believed to have been behind the deadly explosion.Istanbul Police Station / EPA / Shutterstock

Soylu said the order was given in Kobani, a city in northern Syria, where Turkish forces have been conducting operations against the YPG in recent years.

Ankara says the YPG is a wing of the PKK. The United States has supported the YPG in the conflict in Syria, fueling friction among NATO allies.

Albashir, with curly hair and in a purple sweater with the words ‘New York’ on it, was shown handcuffed, according to images from the state broadcaster TRT Haber.

According to the Istanbul police, Albashir said during the interrogation that she had been trained by Kurdish militants and entered Turkey through Afrin, another city in northern Syria.

Earlier TV news reports showed footage of a person, who turned out to be a woman, leaving a package under a raised flower bed in the center of the avenue just before the attack.

Six Turkish civilians, two members of three families each, were killed in the attack. No group has claimed responsibility.

Of the injured, two of the five people treated in intensive care were in critical condition, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said. They were among the 26 injured who are still in hospital, while 55 people had been discharged.

The attack raised concerns that more such incidents could take place in the run-up to the June 2023 elections, with polls showing President Tayyip Erdogan could lose power after two decades.

Istanbul has been attacked in the past by Kurdish, Islamic and left-wing militants. A spate of bombings and other attacks began across the country when a ceasefire between Ankara and the PKK failed in mid-2015, ahead of the November elections that year.

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