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Fatalities after explosions rock Istanbul football stadium

Two explosions have struck outside a major football stadium in Istanbul after fans had gone home, in an attack that caused fatalities and wounded at least 20 police officers, Turkish authorities said.

A private television channel put the number of wounded at nearly 70.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a statement saying "unfortunately we have martyrs and wounded" but did not specify the number.

One of the blasts was thought to be a car bomb and the second appeared to have been caused by a suicide bomber.

Police cordoned off the area as smoke rose from near the newly built Vodafone Arena Stadium, known colloquially as Besiktas Stadium after the local team and neighbourhood. Witnesses also heard gunfire after the explosions.

The first and larger explosion took place about 10.30pm after the home team beat visitor Bursaspor 2-1 in the Turkish Super League. Mr Erdogan said the timing aimed to claim as many lives as possible.

Interior minister Suleyman Soylu, who gave the initial casualty toll of 20 police officers, rushed from Ankara to Istanbul.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. This year, Istanbul has witnessed bombings attributed by authorities to Islamic State or claimed by Kurdish militants.

"It is thought to be a car bomb at a point where our special forces police were located, right after the match at the exit where Bursaspor fans" had earlier left, Mr Soylu was quoted as saying by Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency.

"We have no information on the number of dead. God willing, we hope there won't be any."

Speaking later to reporters in Istanbul, he said the first explosion took place on a hill next to and overlooking the stadium. The second explosion struck Macka Park and was believed to be a suicide bomb.

The private NTV channel reported that the target of the first attack was a bus for riot police and said nearly 70 wounded were taken to hospitals.

The Besiktas sports club "strongly condemned" terrorism and the attack in a statement posted on its website.

Bursaspor said none of the wounded were fans and issued a statement saying: "We wish a speedy recovery to our wounded citizens."

AP

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