Istanbul Suicide Bomber Identified as ISIS Affiliate, Turkish Interior Minister Says

Turkey's interior minister has confirmed that Turkish national Mehmet Ozturk carried out the attack on Saturday, which killed three Israelis and an Iranian.

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People light candles at the site of a blast on Istiklal Street in central Istanbul on March 19, 2016.
People light candles at the site of a blast on Istiklal Street in central Istanbul on March 19, 2016.Credit: AFP
Ece Toksabay, Ayla Jean Yackley

REUTERS - A Turkish member of the Islamic State was responsible for the suicide bombing in Istanbul on Saturday that killed three Israelis and an Iranian and wounded dozens of others, Turkey's interior minister said on Sunday. 

Efkan Ala identified the bomber as a man born in the southern province of Gaziantep, adding that five people have been detained so far in relation to the bombing. 

"We have determined that Mehmet Ozturk, born in 1992 in Gaziantep, has carried out the heinous attack on Saturday in Istanbul. It has been established that he is a member of Daesh," Ala told a news conference broadcast live on television, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State. 

Israel has confirmed that three of its citizens died in the blast. Two of them held dual citizenship with the United States. An Iranian was also killed, Turkish officials have said. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Israel was trying to determine whether the attack had been aimed at Israelis. 

The bombing was the fourth such attack in Turkey this year, bringing the death toll to more than eighty. Saturday's attack on Istiklal Street, Istanbul's most popular shopping district, appeared similar to a January suicide bombing blamed on Islamic State that killed at least twelve German tourists. 
In that attack, the suicide bomber blew himself up among tourists near the city's historic center. 

NATO member Turkey faces multiple security threats. As part of a U.S.-led coalition, it is fighting Islamic State in neighboring Syria and Iraq. It is also battling Kurdish militants in its southeast, where a 2-1/2-year ceasefire collapsed last July, triggering the worst violence since the 1990s. 

Police were on high alert across Turkey on Sunday after the previous day's attack and due to concerns about potential clashes between security forces and Kurdish militants during a spring festival this weekend that is widely celebrated by Kurds. 

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