ISTANBUL, TURKEY–Turkey’s interior minister on Sunday identified the suicide bomber who killed both himself and four other individuals as a militant with close connections to ISIS.
Minister Efkan Ala said the bomber was Turkish citizen Mehmet Ozturk, who was born in 1992 in Gaziantep province, which borders Syria. He mentioned Ozturk’s impeccable criminal record, and noted that there were five others in close connection to the crime.
Saturday’s explosion resulted in the death of two Israeli citizens and countless other fatalities. The attack targeted Istanbul’s pedestrian Istiklal Street, which contains shops as well as government offices.
“The identity of the terrorist who carried out this reprehensible attack has been determined…The findings obtained show that the terrorist is linked to the Daesh terror organization,” the minister said, using an alternative acronym for IS.
Turkey has faced security threats from ultra-left radicals, Kuridsh rebels, and the IS. This attack marks Turkey’s sixth suicide bombing.
Two of the attacks this year were in the Turkish capital, Ankara. An off-shoot of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Union claimed the Feb. 17 car bombing that killed 29 people and the March 13 suicide bombing that killed 37 people. On Jan. 12, an attack that Turkish authorities blamed on IS claimed the lives of a dozen German tourists visiting Istanbul’s historic sites. This particular attack left a lasting mark on the tourist attractions in Turkey.
Although Turkey is working tirelessly to prevent suicide bombings, they admit that it’s not easy. “We are working so that they do not happen,” the minister said. On Sunday, people placed flowers and placards around the scene of the attack, with one placard reading “We are on the streets, we are not afraid of you.”
The third victim was identified Sunday as Avraham Goldman, 69, from Herzliya. The two others are Simha Damari, 60, from Dimona and Yonata Shor, 40, from Tel Aviv.
It is still unclear whether or not the attack was specifically targeted toward Israelis.
The attack came has Turkey had heightened security across the country in the run-up to the Kurdish spring festival of Newroz on March 21, which Kurds in Turkey conventionally use to celebrate their ethnicities.
Ala said 120,000 police and 80,000 military police were on duty during the Newroz period and more than 1,000 police checkpoints had been set up.