A car bombing rocked the Turkish city of Izmir on Thursday, killing at least four people and triggering a shootout that left two suspected militants dead, as authorities chased the fugitive killer behind the New Year attack in Istanbul.
Turkey is on edge after the shooting rampage at the Reina nightclub unleashed shortly after revellers rang in 2017 which killed 39 people and was claimed by the Islamic State group.
A top official said the gunman may be a Turkic Uighur and several people of Uighur origin were arrested on Wednesday. Just four days after the nightclub carnage, a car bomb exploded outside a courthouse in the Aegean city of Izmir this afternoon.
State-run Anadolu news agency said a policeman and a court worker, reportedly a bailiff, were killed. Police battled “terrorists” in a clash which saw two militants killed while another escaped, according to Anadolu.
Several ambulances rushed to the scene after the blast in the usually peaceful port city, Turkey’s third largest metropolis.
The mayor of the local Bayrakli municipality, Hassan Karabag, had told NTV television that at least 10 people were wounded, while the Dogan news agency put the injury toll at 11.
There has so far been no claim of responsibility or an indication of who may have carried out the attack, the latest bombing after a year of bloodshed in the Muslim-majority NATO member.
Turkish authorities meanwhile were seeking to close in on the Istanbul club attacker, who slipped into the night after spraying 120 bullets at terrified partygoers celebrating New Year.
Of the 39 dead, 27 were foreigners including citizens from India, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Iraq and Morocco.
A top official said the attacker was likely a Turkic Uighur and reports have indicated the authorities are looking into the possible existence of a cell, also including other jihadists from Central Asia.
IS took responsibility for the massacre in a statement on Monday, the first time it has issued a clear and undisputed claim for a major attack inside Turkey.
The extremist group said it was a response to Ankara’s military operation against the jihadists in northern Syria, where Turkish armed forces are supporting opposition fighters retaking territory from IS.
Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak told A Haber broadcaster today that the attacker was “probably” of Uighur origin as he sought to play down fears that the gunman would escape Turkey.
Most Uighurs, an eastern Turkic group, live in the Xinjiang region of China, although there are also significant populations in ex-Soviet Central Asian states.
Previous reports had said the killer could be from Kyrgyzstan or Uzbekistan.