Turkish police and up to three leftist militants clashed in an ongoing shootout during a raid on a safe house in a residential area yesterday, officials and news reports said.
At least nine people were injured, including seven officers wounded by shrapnel from explosive devices. A cameraman was slightly wounded by a stray bullet, HaberTurk television said. An onlooker, standing next to journalists behind police barriers, was also struck by a stray bullet, a photographer at the scene said. He was lying in a pool of blood with no signs of life, television footage showed.
It was not immediately clear whether the man died. Police ordered journalists to evacuate the area.
Istanbul Governor Muammer Guler said the shootout involved one militant linked to an underground leftist group. He did not specify which group. The militant has a large amount of ammunition, including booby traps, and that is why he has been able to hold off dozens of officers, Guler said.
Television reports, however, later said three militants from a leftist group called Revolutionary Headquarters were involved. The reports cited police. It was not immediately possible to confirm the reports.
Television footage showed police units surrounding an apartment building in the Bostanci district of the city. Police were firing automatic weapons and tear gas canisters, while occasional blasts rocked the neighborhood.
Police helicopters were hovering above the site where ambulances and fire trucks were standing by.
Guler said police detained 10 suspects from leftist, Kurdish and radical Islamic groups in about 60 separate raids overnight.
“They were planning to stage sensational armed attack soon,” Guler said. “We have seized lots of weapons, bombs and booby traps.”
The raids came days before May Day, when police are usually on alert for clashes with leftist militants. Last week, Turkey declared May Day a public holiday, bowing to pressure from labor unions. But authorities refused to grant permission for festivities to be held at Istanbul’s Taksim square. The site is symbolic because dozens of people were killed there in 1977 when unknown gunmen opened fire, causing a stampede.