istanbul, bomba, hitna.jpg
Photograph: EPA/DENIZ TOPRAK

A suicide bombing on Istanbul's main shopping street on Saturday killed five people, including the assailant, leaving Turkey reeling from the second such attack within a week, the latest hitting a popular tourist area.

Among the injured in the blast in Turkey's largest city and economic hub were 24 foreigners, the local government's office said.

Health Minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu said at least 36 people were wounded in the explosion near a shopping area on Istiklal boulevard, a busy thoroughfare in the centre of Istanbul just off Taksim Square.

Two of those killed in the blast held joint US-Israeli citizenship.

"Turkey has once again suffered a horrific terrorist attack, and we remain steadfast in our support for our NATO Ally and partner," White House National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

"These repeated acts of terrorism in Turkey must come to an end."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, confirming the two deaths, said it was "still unclear whether the attack targeted Israelis."

Israeli media reported several Israelis were injured, including two critically, while Turkey's Dogan news agency reported that at least one of the dead was Israeli and another Iranian. Seven people were listed in serious condition.

The Irish government confirmed that a number of Irish citizens were injured, the Press Association reported.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attack, saying through his spokesman that the "perpetrators of this appalling violence must be brought tojustice, consistent with human rights obligations."

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was quoted by Dogan as saying investigations would soon be completed and shed light on the incident.

Police are testing the DNA of the family member of a suspect, while Turkish authorities were implying Islamic State militants were to blame for the blast, Dogan reported.

No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack.

Istiklal street was largely shut down by police following the attack just before 11 am (0900 GMT) and remained that way into the evening.

A video from a closed circuit camera emerged showing the moment of the explosion which appeared to go off in the middle of a large group of people near a popular fish market.

"I had just ordered a coffee in the nearby shopping mall when we heard the explosion. It actually was not so loud. At first we thought a large piece of furniture had fallen down from a height," witness Tolsum Merey said. 

The blast comes as Turkey is on edge following a massive car bombing in Ankara on March 13 that killed 37 people.

That attack was claimed by the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), a splinter group of the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

A similar attack last month in the capital left 30 dead and was also claimed by TAK.

The US embassy issued a warning about a potential terrorist act before the Ankara bombing occurred.

German diplomatic missions and schools were closed this week in Istanbul and Ankara following what was described as a "concrete" terror threat, apparently from Islamic State. Authorities said the embassy in Ankara and consulate in Istanbul would reopen on Monday.

Following the violence and warnings, Istanbul's normally bustling night life was relatively quiet, with many bars and restaurants in the Taksim area seeing few costumers.

The combined effect of the attacks as well as the war in neighbouring Syria and a diplomatic row with Russia is having a devastating impact on Turkey's vital tourism sector.

Violence has been spiralling in Turkey since last summer. The largest terrorist attack in the country's history came in October, when 100 people were killed in a series of bombings in Ankara blamed on Islamic State.

Meanwhile, the country has seen the conflict with PKK militants from the Kurdish minority reignited after a two-year ceasefire collapsed in July and peace talks were abandoned.

Hundreds have died, including civilians, in the mostly Kurdish south-eastern regions of the country in recent months. Kurds have long complained of systemic discrimination. 

Turkey launched fresh airstrikes against the PKK's bases in northern Iraq on Friday and Saturday, Turkish and Kurdish media outlets said.

Latest news

Merkel calls for fewer EU regulations as nationalist sentiments grow

As voters in the Netherlands, France and Germany show increasing support for nationalist, euro-sceptic political movements ahead of this year's elections, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for limits on EU regulations.

French prosecutors transfer Fillon case to investigative judge

The French judiciary has opened a formal investigation in connection with presidential candidate Francois Fillon to examine whether the employment of his wife as a parliamentary employee was a sham, the country's financial prosecutors' office said Friday.

White House bars major news outlets from press briefing

Major news organizations, which were Friday blocked by the White House from attending an informal press briefing, condemned the move just hours after President Donald Trump described parts of the media as "the enemy of the people."

Report: German intelligence spied on BBC, other foreign journalists

Germany's intelligence agency monitored foreign journalists at the BBC, the New York Times and other news organizations from 1999 onwards across several countries, according to a Friday report from Der Spiegel magazine.

Classroom for Islamic religious education opened in Split

A classroom for Islamic religious education, whose equipment was financially assisted by city and county authorities, was opened in the coastal city of Split on Friday.

Ministry say no licences for export of military goods to Saudi Arabia issued in 2016

The Economy, Enterprise and Crafts Ministry on Friday issued a statement regarding media reports about export licences for military goods, stressing that in 2016 it did not issue any licences for the export of military goods to Saudi Arabia.

Croatia for preserving Bosnia's stability

Croatia on Friday supported the stability of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), calling on its authorities to adopt decisions in institutions, after a request by BiH Presidency Bosniak member Bakir Izetbegovic to review a ruling which acquitted Serbia of genocide.

Mexico is not a migrant "waiting room" for US, interior minister says

Mexico will not accept undocumented immigrants from other countries whom the United States plans to deport, Mexico's interior minister said Friday.

Right-wing populist Wilders declines first Dutch election debate

Candidates from nine Dutch parties answered questions from journalists Friday at the first national radio debate of the election campaign, but the leading candidate

Bosnian Croat reps insist on channel airing programmes in Croatian

Being one of the constituent peoples, the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina are entitled to a broadcaster that will air programmes in their native language, HNS BiH official Ivan Vukoja said at a news conference in Mostar on Friday.

Same-sex couples in Slovenia can marry

A Slovenian law allowing same-sex couples to marry went into force on Friday and the first civil registrar ceremony, between two women, is to take place in Maribor on Saturday, the town's Vecer daily said.

Moody's changes Agrokor's outlook to negative

The Moody's rating agency on Friday changed its outlook for the Agrokor food retailer from stable to negative, affirming its rating of B3.