December 10, 2016 3:13 pm
Updated: December 10, 2016 9:17 pm

Explosions near Istanbul soccer stadium kills at least 29

WATCH ABOVE: A suspected car bomb outside a soccer stadium in central Istanbul injured at least 20 people Saturday just hours after the end of a match between two of Turkey’s top teams, Turkish authorities said.

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ISTANBUL — A car bomb followed by a suicide bombing less than a minute later killed 29 people and wounded 166 outside a soccer stadium in Istanbul on Saturday night, Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said.

Soylu described the blasts outside the Vodafone Arena, home to Istanbul‘s Besiktas soccer team, as a “cruel plot”. One of the explosions hit directly outside the stadium, while the suspected suicide bomber struck in the adjacent Macka park, he told reporters.

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All but two of those killed in the blasts were police officers, Soylu said. He said 17 of the wounded were undergoing surgery and another six were in intensive care.

Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said the suicide bomber had detonated 45 seconds after the car bomb. Soylu said 10 people had been detained based on evidence from the detonated vehicle.

READ MORE: ‘I don’t care if they call me dictator’: Turkey president Tayyip Erdogan

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Islamic State, Kurdish and far-leftist militants have all carried out bomb attacks in recent years. The NATO member is part of the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State in Syria, and is battling an insurgency by Kurdish militants in its southeast.

“It was like hell. The flames went all the way up to the sky. I was drinking tea at the cafe next to the mosque,” said Omer Yilmaz, who works as a cleaner at the nearby Dolmabahce mosque, directly across the road from the stadium.

“People ducked under the tables, women began crying. Soccer fans drinking tea at the cafe sought shelter, it was horrible,” he told Reuters.

A Reuters photographer said many riot police officers were seriously wounded. Armed police sealed off streets. A police water cannon doused the wreckage of a burned-out car and there were two separate fires on the road outside the stadium.

Broadcaster NTV said one of the explosions had targeted a police vehicle that was leaving the stadium after fans had already dispersed.

READ MORE: Kurdistan Workers’ Party claims responsibility for deadly car bomb attack in Turkey

Turkish soccer team Bursaspor, which finished a match against Besiktas attended by thousands of people two hours before the blasts, said none of its fans appeared to have been injured. It and Besiktas both said they condemned the attacks.

“Those attacking our nation’s unity and solidarity will never win,” Sports Minister Akif Cagatay Kilic said on Twitter. Transport Minister Ahmet Arslan, also writing on Twitter, described it as a terrorist attack.

President Tayyip Erdogan, who was in Istanbul at the time of the explosions, had been in contact with the chief of Istanbul police and the prime minister and was following developments closely, sources in his office said.

Turkey has been hit by a series of bombings in recent years, some blamed on Islamic State militants, others claimed by Kurdish and far-leftist militant groups.

In June, around 45 people were killed and hundreds wounded when three suspected Islamic State militants carried out a gun and bomb attack on Istanbul‘s Ataturk airport.

© 2016 Thompson Reuters

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