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Deadly blast in Turkey targets tourists

An explosion ripped throughout the historic heart of Istanbul on Tuesday, scattering bodies at a major tourist destination. The suicide blast killed 10, most of whom were German visitors. Turkey's prime minister declared the Islamic State was responsible. Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner reports.

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    But, first, the deadly bombing that shook Turkey's largest city today. The suicide blast killed 10 people, including eight Germans, and wounded 15.

    Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner has the story.


    It was mid-morning when the explosion ripped through the historic heart of Istanbul. The site, Sultanahmet Square, is a major tourist destination, home to a landmark obelisk and just steps from the famed Blue Mosque.

    But, today, its grounds were scattered with bodies, and body parts, as ambulance sirens wailed and security forces rushed to the scene.

  • MAN (through interpreter):

    It was a suicide bomb. There was chaos. Everybody was running somewhere.


    The dead were all foreigners, nearly all of them, German tourists.

    And Reuters correspondent Ayla Jean Yackley in Istanbul said via Skype it's a blow to Turkey's vital tourist industry.


    There is very much a sense of deep sadness, fear. What does this mean for Turkey's tourism business? What does this mean for Turkey's reputation or standing in the world? Will Turkey now be perceived as another dangerous no-go place in the region? These are some of the questions that are on people's minds here as well.


    Turkish officials responded quickly, with the prime minister declaring the Islamic State group was responsible.

  • AHMET DAVUTOGLU, Prime Minister, Turkey (through interpreter):

    Our fight against ISIS, which carried out this attack, will continue with determination. The perpetrators of this attack and their links will be unveiled and they will get the punishment they deserve.


    Turkey's deputy prime minister said the perpetrator was a Syrian national born in 1988, that he'd entered Turkey recently, but wasn't on the country's watch list of suspected militants.

    Another report said the bomber was Saudi-born. Turkey's leaders also spoke by phone to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who later addressed reporters in Berlin.

    ANGELA MERKEL, Chancellor of Germany (through interpreter): Today, it hit Istanbul, but, before that, it was Paris, and, before that, it was Copenhagen, Tunisia and so many other places. International terror chooses the places of its attacks in different ways, but its target is always the same: our life in freedom and our free societies.


    This wouldn't be the first time that ISIS targeted Turkey. In July, more than 30 people were killed in a suicide attack in Suruc, near the southeastern border with Syria. Then, in October, twin suicide bombs exploded at a peace rally in Ankara. More than 100 were killed.

    Those attacks were aimed at Turkish Kurds. Their Syrian brethren are one of the most effective forces fighting ISIS in Syria. But Kurdish separatists inside Turkey and their government are locked in a vicious new war, after a two-year cease-fire. Lately, Turkey is taking a stronger hand in Syria against ISIS.

    Last year, it agreed to open its bases to U.S. aircraft and to do more to stop the flow of foreign militants into Syria.


    Turkey's also been more and more outspoken in its criticism of Islamic State. Maybe initially, there was some reluctance to call them terrorists, for example. And now the government officials, including the president, do call them terrorists.

    Of course, there's also some truth to the fact that Turkey was a very ardent and outspoken opponent and critic of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which may have encouraged turning a blind eye. The idea that either Turkey, the government, helped bring this on by not doing enough or has brought it on by joining the coalition and maybe doing too much shows you the sort of rock and a hard place that Turkey's caught between.


    All of that as Turkey continues to host more than two million Syrian refugees. Just yesterday, Ankara said it will offer refugees work permits to discourage them from illegally crossing into the European Union.

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