Istanbul, Dec 10, 2016 (AFP) -Around 20 police officers were injured in a car bomb explosion outside an Istanbul football stadium on Saturday, in the latest attack to rock Turkey this year.
The car bomb blast struck the area outside Istanbul giant Besiktas football team’s stadium after a match against the Bursaspor club, targeting a bus packed with police officers, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said.
“A car packed with explosives is believed to have exploded where our riot squad was deployed shortly after the football fans dispersed following the match,” Soylu said.
“The attack targeted the riot police’s bus,” the minister said, adding that nearly 20 police officers had been injured.
An AFP correspondent in Istanbul heard the explosion followed by the sound of ambulance sirens rushing to the scene.
State broadcaster TRT World showed images of the wreckage of a car, engulfed in flames with emergency services swarming around the scene outside the stadium.
Other footage showed severely damaged police vehicles, while witnesses said the force of the blast had shattered the windows of several nearby homes.
Bursaspor football club said none of its fans had been injured, privately-owned NTV television reported.
Police cordoned off the area immediately after the blast, which occurred near Prime Minister Binali Yildirim’s office in Istanbul.
Turkey has experienced a bloody year of militant attacks in its two biggest cities that have left dozens dead and put the country on high alert.
Kurdish militants have twice struck in Ankara, while suspected Islamic State group suicide bombers have hit Istanbul on three occasions.
In June, 47 people were killed in a triple suicide bombing and gun attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport, with authorities pointing the finger at IS.
Another 57 people, 34 of them children, were killed in August in a suicide attack by an IS-linked bomber at a Kurdish wedding in the southeastern city of Gaziantep.
The country is also still reeling from a failed July 15 coup blamed on the US-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen that has been followed by a relentless purge of his alleged supporters from state institutions.
Saturday’s attack came hours after Turkey’s ruling party submitted a parliamentary bill that would dramatically expand the powers and possibly the tenure of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a move his opponents fear will lead to one-man rule.
If approved, the 21-article constitutional change would see Turkey switch from a parliamentary system to an executive presidency, amid concerns that the country’s government is adopting increasingly authoritarian policies.