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Germany Responds To Killing Of Tourists In Istanbul Suicide Attack


As we just heard from Peter Kenyon, at least eight of those killed in the Istanbul bombing this morning were German tourists visiting the area around the Blue Mosque when they were attacked. The German foreign minister says nine other Germans were injured in the bombing, and some are in critical condition. We're joined now by NPR's Berlin correspondent, Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson. And Soraya, you're actually on a reporting trip in Poland, but you've been watching what's going on in Germany. What are people saying about today's attack?

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Well, Kelly they're really shocked and angry and scared and not really wanting to believe that ISIS would target Germans. You even have some commentators on news shows, for example, raising the question of whether it was a domestic terror attack linked to Turkey's conflict with the Kurds rather than some sort of ISIS thing.

MCEVERS: German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke to the press about this. What did she say about the bombing?

NELSON: Well, she held an emergency cabinet meeting, and she says she's also in close touch with her Turkish counterparts about the investigation into this attack. She expressed her sadness and condolences for the victims' families. But as shocked as she was, she was also really defiant. Merkel accused international terrorists of attacking, quote, "free societies."


ANGELA MERKEL: (Speaking German).

NELSON: And she says such terrorists are the enemies of all humanity whether in Syria, Turkey, France or Germany. And she says today's attack only strengthens her government's resolve to work with its international partners to fight terrorism.

MCEVERS: And we don't know yet if this suicide bomber specifically targeted the tourists because they were German. But, I mean, what are people in Germany saying about this? Are they feeling more insecure, especially following the Paris attacks in November and the security scares in Germany that followed that?

NELSON: Well, absolutely. I mean, even before the Istanbul attack, this sort of insecurity was on people's minds. If you went to places like Christmas markets, people were talking about whether or not they might get attacked there. But more problematic is this - is that this kind of attack adds to fear and hatred toward refugees in Germany. They worry that there are terrorists or criminals that are hiding among these refugees who come in, just like the unidentified asylum-seekers that Colonna police say were among the attackers who committed hundreds of sexual assaults in that city on New Year's Eve.

MCEVERS: We know that Turkey is a very popular place for Germans to visit. Do you think that we'll see an impact? Do you think we'll see the number of Germans traveling to Turkey go down?

NELSON: More than likely. I mean, that certainly has been the case with Tunisia and Egypt following attacks and the plane crash there. But surprisingly, the German Foreign Ministry, even today, was not telling its citizens, avoid going to Turkey. They're warning for Istanbul was basically for German citizens to avoid crowds but no ban on travel there.

MCEVERS: That's NPR's Berlin correspondent Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson. Thank you very much.

NELSON: You're welcome, Kelly. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Special correspondent Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is based in Berlin. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and read at NPR.org. From 2012 until 2018 Nelson was NPR's bureau chief in Berlin. She won the ICFJ 2017 Excellence in International Reporting Award for her work in Central and Eastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.
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