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Turkish Islamic State Member Identified as Suicide Bomber in Deadly Istanbul Blast

Turkey's interior minister announced that five people have been detained so far in connection with the bombing, which killed four people and injured dozens.

by VICE News and Reuters
Mar 20 2016, 2:10pm

Photo by Deniz Toprak/EPA

A Turkish member of the Islamic State (IS) has been identified as the suicide bomber who blew himself up in the busy shopping area of Istanbul on Saturday, killing four people and wounding dozens of others.

Turkish Interior Minister Efkan Ala said the bomber was a man born in the southern province of Gaziantep, adding that five people have been detained so far in connection with the bombing.

"We have determined that Mehmet Ozturk, born in 1992 in Gaziantep, has carried out the heinous attack on Saturday in Istanbul. It has been established that he is a member of Daesh," Ala told a news conference broadcast live on television, using an Arabic acronym for IS. Ozturk was reportedly identified by DNA found at the scene of the bombing.

Related: Fatal Suicide Bombing Strikes Istanbul Shopping District

Turkish media outlets reported that Ozturk had previously identified as an IS member and that authorities were supposed to be on the lookout for him.

Israel has confirmed that three of its citizens died in the blast. Two of them held dual citizenship with the United States. An Iranian was also killed, Turkish officials have said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Israel is trying to determine whether the attack was aimed at Israelis.

The bombing was the fourth such attack in Turkey this year, bringing the death toll in suicide bombings to more than 80. Saturday's attack on Istiklal Street, Istanbul's most popular shopping district, appeared similar to a January suicide bombing blamed on IS that killed 12 German tourists. In that attack, the suicide bomber blew himself up among tourists near the city's historic center.

Related: Explosion in Turkish Capital Kills Dozens Near Ankara's Main Transit Hub

Turkey, a NATO member state, faces multiple security threats. As part of a US-led coalition, it is fighting IS in neighboring Syria and Iraq. It is also battling Kurdish militants in its southeast, where a ceasefire collapsed last July, triggering the worst violence since the 1990s. Some Turkish officials initially blamed the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) for the suicide bombing on Saturday in Istanbul.

Police were on high alert across Turkey on Sunday after the previous day's attack and due to concerns about potential clashes between security forces and Kurdish militants during a spring festival this weekend that is widely celebrated by Kurds.

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