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The New Arab

Syrians arrested in aftermath of Istanbul suicide bombing

The arrests came hours after the explosion tore through Sultanahmet, a popular tourist area [Getty]

Date of publication: 12 January, 2016

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A group of 15 Syrians and a Turkish citizen have reportedly been arrested in the wake of a suspected suicide bombing for having joined the Islamic State group.

A group of 15 Syrians and a Turkish citizen have reportedly been arrested by Ankara's police force following a deadly explosion in central Istanbul.

A "Syrian-linked suicide bomber" was swiftly blamed by President Recip Tayyip Erdogan for the blast which killed ten and injured at least 15 in an area of Turkey's second city popular with tourists.

"I strongly condemn the terror attack which was carried out by a suicide bomber of Syrian origin," Erdogan told reporters after holding a crisis meeting with aides and senior officials.

The suspected bomber was not on Turkey's watch-list of suspected Islamic State group militants, said Numan Kurtulmuş, Turkey's deputy prime minister.

But local media outlet Dogan claimed the perpetrator was a Saudi Arabian man named Nabil Fadli. The name has yet to be confirmed by any official outlet.

The arrest of the Syrians and a Turk, reportedly on suspicion of joining the Islamic State group, will likely fuel tensions over hosting the more than two million Syrian refugees who have fled into Turkey.

There has already been concern and hostility on the part of some Turks worried about over-stretched municipal resources and those who fear further violence between Ankara and the country's Kurdish minority, who live in areas dotted along the borders with Syria and Iraq.

Under pressure from the European Union, Turkish officials this week announced they would give work permits to Syrian refugees to encourage them to stay in the country, and not risk the dangerous and illegal journey towards European destinations.

"The EU extends sincere condolences to the families of the victims killed in the bomb attack today and wishes a speedy recovery to those injured," read a joint statement from
Federica Mogherini and Johannes Hahn, the bloc's foreign policy chiefs.

"The EU and Turkey stand united against all forms of terrorism."

Read more: 'Syria-linked suicide bomber' kills ten in central Istanbul



At least one of those injured in Tuesday's attack is thought to have been from South Korea, an official at Seoul's consulate has said.

Germans, Norwegians and a Peruvian were also thought to be among the casualties, though it remains unclear whether they were among the injured or the deceased.

"We mourn the victims of this murderous attack," tweeted German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. "We can't exclude that Germans are among the dead."

Elsewhere, in what is thought to be an unrelated incident, a large fire broke out at a 12-storey hotel in the city's Maltepe district, with several people feared trapped inside. Authorities later said the blaze had been contained, and no injuries were reported.

In a third disturbance, a fire has erupted at the security directorate in Turkey's capital, Ankara. Authorities there are investigating, but it is also believed at this time to be unrelated to the other events rocking the country on Tuesday.

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