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Blasts hit near Istanbul soccer stadium, wound 20 police

Rescue services rush to the scene of explosions near the Besiktas football club stadium, following at attack in Istanbul, late Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. Two loud explosions have been heard near the newly built soccer stadium and witnesses at the scene said gunfire could be heard in what appeared to have been an armed attack on police. Turkish authorities have banned distribution of images relating to the Istanbul explosions within Turkey. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

ISTANBUL  — Two explosions struck Saturday night outside a major soccer stadium in Istanbul after fans had gone home, an attack that wounded about 20 police officers, Turkish authorities said. One of the blasts was thought to be a car bomb.

Police cordoned off the area as smoke rose from behind the newly built Vodafone Arena Stadium, known colloquially as Besiktas Stadium after the local team and neighborhood. Witnesses also heard gunfire after the explosions.

The first and larger explosion took place about 10:30 p.m. after the home team Besiktas beat visitor Bursaspor 2-1 in the Turkish Super League. Officials gave no immediate details on the nature of the second explosion, which sounded like it came from the same area.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, who gave the casualty toll and said the wounded were police officers, was heading from Ankara to Istanbul.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. This year Istanbul has witnessed bombings attributed by authorities to the Islamic State group or claimed by Kurdish militants.

“It is thought to be a car bomb at a point where our special forces police were located, right after the match at the exit where Bursaspor fans exited, after the fans had left,” Soylu was quoted as saying by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency. “We have no information on the number of dead. God willing, we hope there won’t be any.”

He said the explosion took place on a hill adjacent to and overlooking the stadium.

The private NTV channel said the target of the attack was a bus for riot police.

Television images showed more than a dozen ambulances on a street hugging the stadium and a police helicopter flying overhead with its searchlights on. The window glass of nearby buildings was shattered by the blasts and coated the pavement. Investigators, including Istanbul Police Chief Mustafa Caliskan, were quickly on the scene.

The Besiktas sports club “strongly condemned” terrorism and the attack in a statement posted on its website.

Bursaspor said none of the wounded were fans and issued a statement saying “we wish a speedy recovery to our wounded citizens.”

Turkey’s radio and television board issued a temporary coverage ban citing national security concerns. It said “to avoid broadcasts that can result in public fear, panic or chaos, or that will serve the aims of terrorist organizations.”

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and Istanbul Governor Vasip Sahin were also notified about the attack, Anadolu said.