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Bulgaria charges five people in connection with Istanbul blast

Police officers escort suspects linked to the Istanbul bombing in a court in Sofia on Nov 19, 2022. (NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV / AFP)

SOFIA – Bulgarian prosecutors have charged five people for supporting terrorist acts in connection with an explosion in central Istanbul that killed six people on Nov 13, chief prosecutor Ivan Geshev said on Saturday.

Bulgarian special police forces detained three men of Moldovan origin and a man and woman of Syrian Kurdish descent this week following investigations and close cooperation with prosecutors in neighbouring Türkiye, Geshev told Reuters.

Bulgarian special police forces detained three men of Moldovan origin and a man and woman of Syrian Kurdish descent this week following investigations and close cooperation with prosecutors in neighboring Turkey

"Five people have been charged. The charges are in two groups – for supporting terrorist acts in another country, namely the attack in Istanbul, and for human trafficking," Geshev said, adding they were mainly involved in human trafficking through Türkiye and smuggling.

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A Bulgarian court ruled in a closed hearing later on Saturday that the four men could be kept in pre-trial detention on the human trafficking charges, saying it lacked enough evidence to keep them behind bars on the charges of supporting terrorist activities.

The prosecutors did not ask the court to keep the woman in custody because of a health condition.

In Chisinau, the Moldovan foreign ministry confirmed three citizens had been detained.

"Our country strongly condemns any terrorist acts, including those in Istanbul," said ministry spokesperson Daniel Voda.

ALSO READ: Türkiye blames Istanbul blast on Kurdish militants, arrests 22

Turkish prosecutors have already asked for some of the suspected accomplices in the blast to be extradited, Geshev added.

On Friday, a Turkish court ordered the pre-trial detention of 17 people suspected of being involved in the explosion, including the suspected bomber, who police identified as Syrian national Ahlam Albashir.

No group has claimed responsibility for the blast, which also injured more than 80 people on Istiklal Avenue, a busy and historic pedestrian strip.

The Turkish government swiftly blamed Kurdish militants for the blast and police have said the suspected bomber was trained by Kurdish militants in Syria.

READ MORE: Türkiye summons German, French envoys over militants