JERUSALEM — The suspected suicide bomber who killed three Israelis and one Iranian in Istanbul followed an Israeli tour group to a restaurant and detonated himself there, according to Turkish media reports.
The reports published today (March 21) run counter to those of intelligence assessments that said the Israelis were not deliberately targeted.
Journalist Abdullah Bozkury of Today’s Zaman posted on Twitter that the bomber followed the Israeli tourists from their hotel and lurked outside a restaurant until they finished their breakfast and began to exit; then, he detonated the bomb.
He identified the bomber as being affiliated with the Islamic State terrorist group.
The Turkish reports, which also include Hurriyet and T24, do not name sources.
Yesterday, the suicide bomber was identified as a Turkish citizen, Mehmet Ozturk, by Turkey’s interior minister.
“The findings obtained show that the terrorist is linked to the Daesh terror organization,” said the minister, Efkan Ala, according to The Associated Press. Daesh is an acronym for the Islamic State.
He reportedly spent two years in Syria before returning to Turkey illegally.
In televised comments Saturday after the blast and an emergency meeting of Israel’s Security Cabinet, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that officials were investigating whether Israelis had been targeted in the bombing and said that intelligence pointed to it being an Islamic State attack.
The three Israeli victims killed in the bombing are Avraham Goldman, 69, of Herzliya; Yonatan Suher, 40, of Tel Aviv, and Simcha Damri, 60, of Dimona. Suher and Goldman also were U.S. citizens.
Eleven Israelis were wounded in the blast, including Damri’s husband, Avi.
The fourth victim of the attack was an Iranian national identified as Ali Reza Razmhah.
Also yesterday, Israel’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau issued a travel warning calling on Israelis not to travel to Turkey. The warning cites the significant rise over the past two months in terror threats in Turkey, especially suicide bombings and particularly in Istanbul and Ankara, the capital.
The warning was raised to Level 2, defined as a basic concrete threat, from Level 4, meaning an ongoing potential threat.