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Explosion in central square in Istanbul kills at least 10

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Posted at 5:58 AM, Jan 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-12 06:32:16-05

ISTANBUL — An explosion rocked a central square in Istanbul on Tuesday, killing at least 10 people and wounding 15 others, the Istanbul governor’s office said. Officials feared the toll may include foreign nationals.

The city’s Sultanahmet Square was swarming with security forces and ambulances in the aftermath of the blast. The area is Istanbul’s tourist hub — the cultural and historic heart of the city. It is heavily guarded.

“Investigations continue about the explosion’s cause, the explosive’s types, the perpetrator or perpetrators of the event,” said Istanbul governor Vasip Sahin.

No group immediately claimed responsibility and the identities of the dead and wounded weren’t released.

“It cannot be ruled out that German citizens have become victims in the explosion,” the German ministry of foreign affairs said.

Germany’s Foreign Office issued a travel advisory, following the blast. Turkey is a popular destination for German tourists.

“Travelers in Istanbul are urged to avoid larger gatherings, also in public squares and to avoid tourist attractions for now,” a statement said.

The blast comes at a time Turkey is dealing with multiple threats to its security.

“This does seems to be an attack of some kind,” said Sajjan Gohel, the international security director at the Asia Pacific Foundation. “There’s been concern in Turkey for a while. Turkey’s been on higher alert.”

ISIS and the Kurdish group the PKK have been mentioned in recent outbreaks of violence.

In October, two explosions hit a lunchtime peace rally in Ankara, which called for an end to the renewed conflict between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and Turkish government. Ninety-nine people were killed and more than 240 were injured.

ISIS is active in neighboring Iraq.

The Turkish government allows the United States to launch strikes on ISIS positions from Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey.

“The Islamic State has been unhappy with Turkey’s cooperation with the United States,” said Fadi Hakura, associate fellow at Chatham House.

Kurdish forces have been battling ISIS across a swath of northern Iraq and Syria.