by Matthew Davies
Just five days after suicide bombers attacked two synagogues in Istanbul, killing 25 people and injuring hundreds, at least 26 people have been killed today and more than 400 injured in two bomb attacks on the British Consulate and offices of HSBC, one of the largest British banks.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, returned from his first formal visit to Istanbul yesterday. This afternoon he issued a statement condemning the attacks and expressing the "shock and grief that I, my family and my staff are feeling".
The British consul general, Roger Short, is amongst 15 people who died at the consulate. Two nights ago Mr Short, and his wife Victoria, hosted a reception at their residence to which Dr Williams was a guest. In his statement he spoke of the "generous and warm hospitality" from them both.
"They told me of the devastation that the people of Turkey were experiencing as a result of the attacks on the Synagogues last Saturday," the Archbishop said. "And of their admiration for the way in which the different faith communities were standing together in the face of that violence."
He added, "Our hearts go out to the families of all who have been killed in these vicious and senseless attacks. These acts of violence achieve nothing but to hurt a whole community of all faiths and none.
"Our prayers are with all in Istanbul at this time, and especially with all who we know personally."
The Rt Revd Geoffrey Rowell, Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe, was one of the people accompanying the Archbishop of Canterbury on his visit to Istanbul. He also issued a statement this afternoon calling the "faithful of the Diocese in Europe to prayer" and describing how they were "horrified and heart-broken" when they had visited the scene of one of the synagogues which had encountered last weekend's attacks.
"As a community of faith, we offer prayers for an end to violence, for God’s protection for all who are in danger from terrorism, for divine guidance for leaders of government to address the root causes which fuel such acts of hatred and bloodshed, and for those who perpetrate such acts to be turned from prejudice and anger to justice and peace," he said.
Earlier today Britain warned its citizens against travel to Istanbul and British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, labelled today's atrocities as a "terrorist outrage".