ISTANBUL - A Syrian suicide bomber on Tuesday struck the heart of Istanbul’s busiest tourist district, killing 10 people, most of them Germans, in the latest deadly attack blamed on Islamic State jihadists.

Images from the scene showed several mutilated corpses lying on the ground close to the iconic Ottoman-era Blue Mosque in Sultanahmet, a district home to Istanbul’s biggest concentration of historic monuments.

Turkey has been hit by a string of deadly attacks this year, but Tuesday’s bombing was the first time in recent memory tourists had been targeted in the heart of the city.

Germany said at least eight of its nationals had been killed in the blast, while a Turkish official put the total number of Germans killed at nine.

Peru also confirmed one of its nationals had died in the attack, the foreign ministry in Lima said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the attack was carried out “by a suicide bomber of Syrian origin,” while Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the man belonged to the Islamic State extremist group.

Officials said he was a Syrian born in 1988 who had crossed the border into Turkey.

The explosion occurred at around 0820 GMT by the Obelisk of Theodosius, a monument from ancient Egypt which was re-erected by the Roman Emperor Theodosius and stands just outside the Blue Mosque.

Police threw up a tight security cordon around the area as helicopters hovered overhead, and crowds of worried locals and tourists clamoured to find out what had happened, an AFP correspondent said.

The explosion was powerful enough to be heard in adjacent neighbourhoods, witnesses told AFP.

“The explosion was so loud, the ground shook. There was a very heavy smell that burned my nose,” a German tourist called Caroline told AFP.

“I heard a very loud blast, then came the screams,” added a Turkish man who did not want to be identified.

“Then I saw a ball of fire, and started to run away.”

The authorities imposed a broadcast ban on reporting of the attack, prompting television channels to halt live coverage from the scene although factual commentaries continued.

PAKISTAN CONDEMNS ATTACK

Staff Reporter from Islamabad adds: ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif yesterday strongly condemned the act of terror in Istanbul’s Central Tourist District.

The Prime Minister expressed immense grief and sorrow over the loss of precious lives in the Istanbul’s act of terror. The Prime Minister said that the People and Government of Pakistan share the pain of their Turkish brethern at this critical moment.