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Istanbul residents fearful, angry, defiant after twin bombings terrorize city during Ramadan

ISTANBUL, Turkey (BP)–Still reeling from the bombing of two synagogues, Istanbul was gripped with panic with the news of two more bomb blasts Nov. 20.

The bombings targeted British interests including the British Consulate and the Hong Kong Shanghai Bank (HSBC). At least 27 people, including the British Consul General Roger Short, died in the blasts, and about 400 were injured.

One of the bombs exploded in front of Metro City, a newly opened shopping complex in an upscale neighborhood of Istanbul. The bombings occurred on the eve of the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting.

The city of 15 million people, already alarmed from twin synagogue bombings over the past weekend, now faces more uncertainty in the coming days. A KFC restaurant in one of Istanbul’s pedestrian areas, directly across from a HSBC bank, locked its doors to the public. Conversation on the streets is dominated by rumor and fearful talk — all centered on the bombings.

Normally a carefree and chaotic city, Istanbul’s residents are feeling emotions that range from anger to defiance. A German woman who lives less than a mile from one of the bombed synagogues and the British Consulate said, “I am not going anywhere. To live in fear is not really living at all. God will take care of me.”

A Turkish taxi driver believes that hiding is pointless: “Allah is watching over me. I don’t fear the bombs. If it is my time I can’t do anything about it.” Another taxi driver angrily declared, “Only an animal could do such a thing! A human couldn’t do this! What do these people gain by killing others?”

The bombings were carried out against Jewish synagogues and British interests, perhaps because Israel, England and Turkey are three of the United States’ strongest allies in the war on terror. Warnings of terrorist attacks had been plentiful in the weeks leading up to the Saturday bombings of the synagogues.

A Turkish news vendor blames America for the current situation. “America started this whole mess, they are responsible,” he said. “The world needs to relax.”

Three young Turkish women who work for the British English Language School reported that their business is very slow: “We haven’t had many people coming to us today.” When asked if they were afraid of being targeted, one of the women said, “No, not at all,” but the other two remained silent.

In the wake of the synagogue bombings, some churches closed for Sunday services while other churches saw many members staying away. One church official said of the decline in attendance: “This is the time when everyone should come to church and not stay at home. When we stay away, the enemies win.”

The concussion of the bomb blasts were felt all the way across the Bosphorus Strait, which divides the city. The wave of terrorist attacks could wreak havoc on Turkey’s already tenuous economy, to say nothing of the sense of security in the Middle East’s most powerful country.

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