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Istanbul suicide bomber, 'probably from Islamic State', kills German tourists in Sultanahmet

David Cameron has offered Turkey British help to find the organisers of the bomb attack.

By Claire Cromie and PA reporters

Published 12/01/2016

The blast happened in the historic Sultanahmet district of Istanbul
The blast happened in the historic Sultanahmet district of Istanbul

Islamic State is 'probably' behind a suicide bomb attack that killed 10 people - mostly Germans - in Istanbul today, say security officials.

The explosion rocked the historic tourist area of Sultanahmet in the Turkish city, after a 28-year-old Syrian national detonated the bomb.

It's unclear whether the death toll of 10 includes the bomber. The blast wounded some 15 others, two of which are in a serious condition.

Two senior security officials told Reuters there was a high probability that Islamic State militants were responsible.

But Kurdish militants and left-wing groups are also active in Turkey.

Germany and Denmark have warned their citizens to avoid crowds outside tourist attractions in Istanbul.

David Cameron has offered Turkey British help to find the organisers of the bomb attack.

In a telephone call this evening, Mr Cameron offered his condolences to the Turkish president.

A Downing Street spokesman said: "The Prime Minister called president Erdogan of Turkey this evening to express his condolences following today's terrorist attack in Istanbul. They agreed on the importance of remaining resolute in fighting terrorism, and president Erdogan updated the Prime Minister on the investigation.

"The Prime Minister offered the UK's support in establishing who was responsible for the attack."

The historical area, known as the 'old city', is the main sight-seeing district of Istanbul, where the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace are located.

The UK Foreign Office has updated its travel advice, telling British tourists to "follow the instructions of the local security authorities" if in the Sultanahmet area.

But it is still only advising against visits to the parts of Turkey that are within 10km of the border with Syria.

German chancellor Angela Merkel said nine of those killed were part of a German travel group.

"Today Istanbul was hit, Paris has been hit, Tunisia has been hit, Ankara has been hit before," she said. "International terrorism is once again showing its cruel and inhuman face today," she said at a news conference in Berlin.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: "I strongly condemn the terror incident that occurred in Istanbul, at the Sultanahmet Square, and which has been assessed as being an attack by a Syria-rooted suicide bomber."

Turkey's Dogan news agency said one Norwegian and a Peruvian were also among the wounded, and Seoul's Foreign Ministry said a South Korean had a finger injury. The Norwegian Foreign Ministry told Norway's news agency NTB that the Norwegian tourist was slightly hurt and was being treated in a local hospital.

The blast, which could be heard over a wide area, hit a park that is home to a landmark obelisk, 30 yards from the historic Blue Mosque.

Police sealed off the area, barring people from approaching in case of a second explosion, and a police helicopter hovered overhead.

Prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu immediately convened a security meeting with the country's interior minister and other officials.

As with previous attacks, authorities imposed a news blackout, barring media from showing images of the dead or injured or reporting any details of the investigation.

Last year, Turkey agreed to take a more active role in the US-led battle against IS. Turkey opened its bases to US aircraft to launch air raids on the extremist group in Syria and has carried out a limited number of strikes itself.

It has also moved to tighten security along its 560-mile border with Syria in a bid to stem the flow of militants.

Turkey suffered two major bombing attacks last year, both blamed on Islamic State.

More than 30 people were killed in a suicide attack in the town of Suruc, near the border with Syria, in July.

Two suicide bombs exploded in October outside Ankara's main train station as people gathered for a peace rally, killing more than 100 in Turkey's deadliest attack. The prosecutor's office said that attack was carried out by a local IS cell.

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