TURKEY

Istanbul attack: 'I saw bodies everywhere'

A young Turkish man took this photo of victims of the suicide blast when he went to help survivors in Istanbul's Sultan Ahmet Square on January 12, 2016 (photo blurred by Team Observers)
A young Turkish man took this photo of victims of the suicide blast when he went to help survivors in Istanbul's Sultan Ahmet Square on January 12, 2016 (photo blurred by Team Observers)

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On the morning of January 12, a suicide bomb ripped through Istanbul’s Sultanahmet Square, a pedestrian plaza popular with tourists. At least ten people were killed and 15 wounded. FRANCE 24 spoke with two witnesses who were there when the attack happened.

Sultanahmet Square is located near the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque and is a busy gathering place. Many of the dead and wounded are thought to be foreign tourists.

This video shows emergency services rushing to the scene. (Video by @HAKKODO)

Police sealed off the historic hippodrome area of the Sultanahmet district after the explosion (Photo: Ayla Jean Yackley @aylajean)

“I saw bodies everywhere, some blown into pieces”

Turkey’s Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTSC) ordered a temporary media ban on photos and information after the attacks, something the Turkish government often does after these kind of events. But Adem, a young Turkish man, had already published photos and images of the carnage he saw on Twitter.

I was walking with a group of friends in the Sultanahmet district when we heard the explosion. We immediately ran to see what happened. When we got near the obelisk, I saw bodies everywhere. Several people had been blown into pieces. I saw someone’s leg lying separated from their body.

I would say there were at least fifteen injured people. I went and got water for them and stayed until the ambulances came. As soon as police arrived on the scene, they ordered everyone to leave the square.

“My first reaction was to run, but many other people went towards the scene to help”

Ferdi Ferhat Özsoy, the founder of a fact-checking website in Turkey, had five friends visiting him in Istanbul. They left home at 9:30am, getting an early start to do some sightseeing. They started with Sultanahmet Square, where the blast would happen at 10:20am, soon after their arrival.

It was a very peaceful morning, it was sunny. I left my friends on the square while I ran to the bank to take out some money. I had just returned when the bomb exploded. We were standing on the square, only 75 metres away from the explosion.

When I heard the explosion, my first reaction was to run in the other direction. So did my friends. But many people headed towards the scene to help.

The explosion was huge… it blew out windows in nearby office buildings. It was just like you see in movies. I’m still in shock.

The Turkish government said an investigation into the attack was ongoing, though President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the suicide bomber was of Syrian origin during a press conference. Turkey was already on high alert after two suicide bombers killed 103 people in the capital, Ankara, in October.