A bomb blast in a major tourist and leisure district in central Istanbul killed at least six people and injured 81 on Sunday afternoon. 

Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay on Sunday said the attack is considered “a terrorist act, as a result of an attacker … detonating the bomb.” Turkish authorities arrested a female suspect in connection with the bombing, according to Turkish news source Anadolu Agency. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan condemned the blast as a “treacherous attack” and warned that Turkey would not tolerate terrorism on its soil. 

“Attempts to take Turkey and the Turkish nation hostage through terrorism will not achieve their goals,” Erdoğan said. 

International leaders quickly condemned the attack, including the White House. The United States “strongly condemns the act of violence that took place today in Istanbul,” said White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. “Our thoughts are with those who were injured and our deepest condolences go to those who lost loved ones.”

Turkey’s Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu told reporters the government believes the attacker has links to separatists in the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the PKK, and its 2003-launched Syria branch – the Democratic Union Party, or PYD. 

Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union all consider the PKK a terrorist organization. 

“A little while ago, the person who left the bomb (was) taken into custody by teams of the Istanbul Police Department. Before their arrest, 21 more people were also taken into custody,” the interior minister said. “The face of terrorism is bitter, but we will continue this struggle to the end, whatever the cost is.” 

Witnesses described the bomb site as a “war zone.” 

Tariq Keblaoui, a Lebanon-based journalist who was on holiday in Istanbul, witnessed the attack firsthand. 

“People were scattering immediately,” Keblaoui told CNN. 

“Very shortly after, I could see how many injured were on the ground. There was a man in the store bleeding from his ears and his legs, and his friends were crying near him,” stated Keblaoui, who said he saw dead bodies on the ground. 

Turkish authorities have accused Western nations repeatedly of giving a “safe haven” to people that Ankara labels as “terrorists.” 

“In particular, the insincerity of our so-called allies who seem friendly to us, who either hide terrorists in their own country, or feed terrorists in the areas they occupy and send them money from their own senates, is obvious,” Soylu said. 

Turkish suspicions towards the West have strained relations with Sweden, which has a large Kurdish immigrant population. 

Ankara believes Swedish authorities allow PKK members to operate in Sweden. In turn, Sweden has been vocal against Turkey’s human rights violations and arrests of political dissidents. The Kurds constitute approximately one-fifth of Turkey’s population and have long felt that the authorities discriminate against the ethnic minority.

Swedish-Turkish political tensions were long an obstacle in Sweden’s aspirations to join NATO, as Turkey – a member of the Western defense alliance – would veto Sweden’s attempts to be admitted.

Only this summer, following intervention by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, did the Turkish government finally agree to let Sweden and Finland join NATO. However, Turkey conditioned their entry into NATO on what it calls a “shared battle against terrorism.” 

“Turkey, Finland and Sweden have signed a memorandum that addresses Turkey’s concerns, including around arms exports and the fight against terrorism,” Stoltenberg said. 

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