Istanbul bomber said to have tailed Israelis from hotel
Earlier assessments said Islamic State-linked bomber Mehmet Ozturk had not deliberately targeted the Israeli group
Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel.
The suspected Islamic State bomber who killed three Israelis in Saturday’s bombing in Istanbul followed the tour group from their hotel to the restaurant, and waited outside for them before detonating his explosives, reports said Monday.
The reports, published in the Turkish media, appeared to contradict earlier assessments that the bombing didn’t deliberately target the Israeli tour group. The later reports, however, were unsourced and couldn’t be independently verified.
The blast killed an Iranian national in addition to the three Israelis, and injured dozens, including 11 Israelis.
The victims of Saturday’s bombing were identified as Yonathan Suher, 40, Simha Dimri, 60, and Avraham Goldman, 69. Suher and Goldman were also named as United States citizens by the State Department.
The victims of the attack were brought back to Israel for burial on Sunday.
Turkish police on Sunday identified the bomber as Mehmet Ozturk, 23, an Islamic State member from Gaziantep province who spent two years in Syria before returning to Turkey illegally.
#Turkey: #ISIL bomber followed #Israel tourist group from the moment they left their hotel in Beşiktaş district, trailed them to Istiklal.
— Abdullah Bozkurt (@abdbozkurt) March 21, 2016
The T24 news site reported that Ozturk followed the tour group from their hotel in the Besiktas neighborhood of Istanbul, located near Taksim Square, to the restaurant on Istiklal Avenue where they ate breakfast on Saturday morning. When the group exited, the bomber blew himself up, the report said.
Ozturk reportedly stayed at a hotel on Barbaros Boulevard in Besiktas the night before the attack and received assistance from an unknown person, the Hurriyet newspaper reported.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a press conference Saturday evening that Israel was “trying to get intelligence on whether the terror attack was targeted against Israelis,” but the prevailing assessment in the days immediately following the bombing was that it was merely incidental that Israelis were at the epicenter of the blast.
“We don’t have any confirmation that the attack targeted Israelis,” he told reporters.