ISTANBUL, Turkey — A suicide bomber hit a busy tourist area in central Istanbul on Saturday, killing at least four people, Turkey’s health minister said.
Thirty-six people were injured in the blast, Health Minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu told reporters. Seven are in critical condition and four were undergoing surgery.
Preliminary reports indicate 12 of those injured are from other countries, according to the minister. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon said that Israelis were among those hurt.
“Those who kill are killing humanity,” Muezzinoglu said. “I condemn those who are killing humanity like this.”
Police cordoned off Taksim Square after the attack, as helicopters flew overhead and multiple ambulances gathered at the site.
Stunned shoppers ran away from the scene, some in tears.
No group immediately claimed responsibility.
Days after deadly car bomb in Ankara
The attack comes nearly a week after a car bomb ripped through a busy square in the capital of Ankara on March 13.
The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons — or TAK, a militant offshoot of the Kurdish separatist group, PKK — boasted that it was behind that bombing, which killed 37 people. The group said on its website Thursday that its militants struck “in the heart of [the] fascist Turkish republic.”
The PKK, or Kurdistan Worker’s Party, seeks an independent state in Turkey, and has been in an armed struggle with the government for decades. The United States and EU have designated both it and the TAK as terrorist organizations.
A ceasefire between the PKK and Turkey fell apart last summer, after which Turkey bombed the terror group’s positions in northern Iraq while also imposing curfews in crackdowns on heavily Kurdish areas on southeastern Turkey.
Some residents have accused Turkey of unjust collective punishment, saying security forces have acted with impunity and killed civilians.
Kurdish militant group warned tourists
The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons specifically have been tied to a number of horrific attacks on their own.
This includes a February bombing targeting military vehicles in central Ankara that killed 28 people.
The TAK called that attack “revenge” for Turkish military actions and threatened more violence — warning foreigners, especially, to stay away from Turkey.
“Tourism is one of the important sources feeding the dirty and special war, so it is a major target we aim to destroy,” the TAK said then in an English-language statement. “We warn the foreign and native tourists not to go to the tourist … areas in Turkey.
“We are not responsible for who will die in the attacks targeting those areas. Turkey is not able (and will never be) to save you and its own people.”