The explosion, which killed six people and injured 81, evoked grim memories of a series of attacks between 2015 and 2017.
Istanbul, Turkey – Crowds have begun to return to Istiklal Avenue, the busy pedestrian street in central Istanbul, where a bomb on Sunday, 6 people were killed and 81 were injured. Locals expressed shock and defiance after the attack.
Furkan works at a chocolate shop a few feet away from where the bomb went off.
“At around 4:20 p.m [13:20 GMT] we were smoking a cigarette at the door,” he told Al Jazeera. “Suddenly, the explosion happened. We were very surprised. It was a scary situation.”
He said a crowd quickly formed in the area and he was worried about the possibility of a second bomb going off. The store is closed for the rest of the day, but he returned to work on Monday.
Police closed all entrances to Istiklal after the explosion. The street reopened on Monday although the main entrance was temporarily blocked by police until 3:45 pm (12:35 GMT) when politicians visited the site of the explosion, which was located flowers in memory of the victims. Istiklal is lined with Turkish flags, as many as 1,200 flags, according to some accounts.
The explosion killed a nine-year-old girl and her father, a teenager and her mother, and a married couple. All are Turkish citizens.
On Monday, authorities said 57 injured people had been discharged from hospital after receiving treatment while 24 injured, including two in critical condition, remained in hospital.
Istiklal had a heavy police presence and was not as busy as it usually was on Monday, however, there were still many people walking down the street.
Metincan Alkan, 30, works at Marlen, a side street bar not far from where the explosion took place. He said businesses in the county would be hit hard after the attack.
“Everyone will start again [stay] stay away from Beyoglu,” he said. “I mean, it’s not good for us from any angle.”
Mustafa Topcuoglu, 53, is a fixture of Istiklal Avenue, known for his icli kofte – bulgar wheat bags filled with spiced meat – which he sells from a small street stall a few blocks from the scene. explosion for a few minutes.
He told Al Jazeera he was upstairs in the adjoining restaurant when he heard the explosion but returned to his post Monday afternoon.
“The aim of terrorism is to scare people, create an atmosphere of panic, and lock them in their homes,” Topcuoglu said. “No matter what, we’re coming, we’re working, we’re continuing our business, and we’re open again.”
The bench bomb suspect, a Syrian woman named Ahlam Albasir, was arrested in the Istanbul suburb of Kucukcekmece early Monday morning. At least 46 people were arrested in connection with the attack in the early evening.
According to media reports, the Istanbul Police Department said Albasir had confessed to having links to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its affiliate in Syria, the People’s Defense Unit (YPG).
However, in statements on Monday, the PKK and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is mainly composed of YPG fighters, deny the responsibility for attack.
The explosion revived grim memories of a series of attacks carried out by groups affiliated with the PKK and ISIL (ISIS) across Turkey between 2015 and 2017. In March 2016, a suicide bomber with links to ISIL kill four people on Istiklal Avenue.
Soner Cagaptay, senior fellow at the Washington Institute, told Al Jazeera that increased violence is likely to affect Turkey’s parliamentary and presidential elections set for June.
“This is a rather worrying development, and we will have to wait and see who is behind it and if any group will take responsibility,” he said.
“This attack, if followed by other attacks, could lead to voters leaning to the right and centered around the security candidate,” Cagaptay said. “This is what happened the last time Turkey experienced a series of terrorist attacks in 2015.”