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Turkey blames home-grown IS member for Istanbul bombing

Interior ministry names suicide attacker who struck in the heart of Istanbul killing five, saying he was 'not on wanted list'
People hold signs reading 'We are not afraid... we won't adjust' during vigil at site of the blast (AFP)

The Turkish interior ministry has blamed a Turkish Islamic State (IS) member for a suicide bombing which killed five people in Istanbul, including two American-Israelis and an Iranian.

Interior Minister Efkan Ala on Sunday named Mehmet Ozturk as the bomber who killed five and injured 36 others in a Saturday blast in the busy Beyoglu district of the city.

"The attacker has been formally identified. He is linked to the terrorist organisation Daesh," Ala said, using an alternative name for Islamic State.

Local Turkish media reported that the explosion may have been premature. A CNN Turk reporter was quoted by Hurriyet as saying the suicide attacker had been on his way to the target when his bomb detonated outside a restaurant.

Turkish authorities enforced a media blackout on the area following the blast, as has become standard following attacks in the country.

Istiklal avenue is a hub for tourists and secular Turks, and is home to numerous shops, bars and clubs.

Born in 1992, Ozturk came from Gaziantep, a city in southeast Turkey on the border with Syria, the interior minister said.

He was "not on our list of wanted persons," Ala said, defending the authorities against accusations of security failings following six major attacks around the country since July that have killed more than 200 people.

Istanbul residents flee the suicide bombing on 19 March 2016 (AFP)

IS and Kurdish militant groups have claimed many of the bombings.

A 13 March bomb attack in the capital Ankara, which killed 37 people, was claimed by the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), a splinter group from the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

In January, a suicide bomber believed to be affiliated to IS struck Istanbul's tourist-heavy Sultanahmet district killing 10 people.

Turkey's tourist industry has been heavily damaged by repeated bombings as well as the rise in violence in the country's southeast.

On Sunday, Israel warned its citizens against travel to Turkey in the wake of the bombing.

The country's anti-terrorism office raised its threat assessment and "recommends avoiding visits to Turkey," it said in a statement.

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