Did You Know
Did You Know
Three suicide bombers opened fire then blew themselves up in Istanbul’s main international airport on Tuesday, killing 36 people and wounding close to 150 in what Turkey’s prime minister said appeared to have been an attack by Islamic State (ISIS) militants.
One attacker opened fire in the departures hall with an automatic rifle, sending passengers diving for cover and trying to flee, before all three blew themselves up in or around the arrivals hall a floor below, witnesses and officials said.
The attack on Europe’s third-busiest airport is one of the deadliest in a series of suicide bombings in Turkey, which is struggling to contain the spillover from neighbouring Syria’s civil war and battling an insurgency by Kurdish militants in its southeast.
Police fired shots to try to stop two of the attackers just before they reached a security checkpoint at the arrivals hall, but they detonated their explosives, a Turkish official said.
“It became clear with this incident again that terrorism is a global threat. This attack, targeting innocent people is a vile, planned terrorist act,” Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told reporters at the airport. “There is initial evidence that each of the three suicide bombers blew themselves up after opening fire,” he said, adding that preliminary findings pointed to ISIS responsibility.
The vast majority of those killed were Turkish nationals but foreigners were also among the dead, the official said.
The prime minister added that the attackers had arrived at the airport by taxi. He ruled out any security failings at Ataturk, one of Europe’s busiest air hubs, where all flights had been suspended after the attack.
Air traffic would resume at the airport from 3am local time (8am Singapore time), Yildirim said.
Security camera footage widely circulated on social media appeared to capture two of the blasts. In one clip a huge ball of flame erupts at an entrance to the terminal building, scattering terrified passengers.
Another video shows a black-clad attacker running inside the building before collapsing to the ground – apparently felled by a police bullet – and blowing himself up.
Witnesses described scenes of panic as the blasts hit, while images on social media showed passengers lying on the floor and luggage trolleys overturned.
“There was a huge explosion, extremely loud. The roof came down. Inside the airport it is terrible, you can’t recognise it, the damage is big,” said Ali Tekin, who was at the arrivals hall waiting for a guest when the attack took place.
A German woman named Duygu, who was at passport control entering Turkey, said she threw herself onto the floor with the sound of the explosion. Several witnesses also reported hearing gunfire shortly before the attacks.
“Everyone started running away. Everywhere was covered with blood and body parts. I saw bullet holes on the doors,” she said outside the airport.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, the latest in a string of suicide bombings this year, but the Dogan news agency said initial indications suggested Islamic State may have been responsible, citing police sources.
A Turkish official said it was too soon to assign blame.
The attack bore some similarities to a suicide bombing by Islamic State militants at Brussels airport in March which killed 16 people. A coordinated attack also targeted a rush-hour metro train, killing a further 16 people in the Belgian capital.
Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said initial information suggested one attacker had initially opened fire with an automatic rifle. “According to information I have received, at the entrance to the Ataturk Airport international terminal a terrorist first opened fire with a Kalashnikov and then blew themself up,” he said in comments in parliament broadcast by CNN Turk.
The state-run Anadolu agency said six of those wounded had sustained serious injuries.
Ataturk is Turkey’s largest airport and a major transport hub for international travellers. Pictures posted on social media from the site showed wounded people lying on the ground inside and outside one of the terminal buildings.
A helicopter buzzed overhead as police evacuated the building. Dozens of passengers walked back down access roads with their luggage, trying to hail cabs. The US embassy urged US citizens to avoid the area.
A witness told Reuters that security officials prevented his taxi and other cars from entering the airport at around 9.50pm (2:50am Wednesday Singapore time). Drivers leaving the terminal shouted “Don’t enter! A bomb exploded!” from their windows to incoming traffic, he said.
Television footage showed ambulances rushing to the scene. One witness told CNN Turk that gunfire was heard from the car park at the airport. Taxis were ferrying wounded people from the airport, the witness said.
US CONDEMNS ATTACKS
The head of Red Crescent, Kerem Kinik, said on CNN Turk that people should go to blood donation centres and not hospitals to give blood and called on people to avoid main roads to the airport to avoid blocking path of emergency vehicles.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday (June 29) called for a “joint fight” against terror after the triple suicide attack.
“If states, as all humanity, fail to join forces and wage a joint fight against terrorist organisations, all the possibilities that we dread in our minds will come true one by one,” Erdogan said in a statement.
The US condemned what it called the “heinous” attacks, pledging “steadfast” support for Turkey.
“Ataturk International Airport, like Brussels Airport which was attacked earlier this year, is a symbol of international connections and the ties that bind us together,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in a statement. “We remain steadfast in our support for Turkey, our Nato ally and partner, along with all of our friends and allies around the world, as we continue to confront the threat of terrorism.”
State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the attack was “only the latest in a series of attacks aimed at killing and maiming innocent civilians.”
“Such attacks will only reinforce our determination to work with the government of Turkey to counter the scourge of terrorism and support all those across the region who are working to promote peace and reconciliation,” he said in a statement.
The US Federal Aviation Administration grounded all flights between the US and Istanbul, but lifted the ban hours later. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey reacted to the explosions by putting armed, high-visibility patrols at the three main airports in the New York metropolitan region.
Turkey has suffered a spate of bombings this year, including two suicide attacks in tourist areas of Istanbul blamed on Islamic State, and two car bombings in the capital, Ankara, which were claimed by a Kurdish militant group.
In the most recent attack, a car bomb ripped through a police bus in central Istanbul during the morning rush hour, killing 11 people and wounding 36 near the main tourist district, a major university and the mayor’s office.
Turkey, which is part of the US-led coalition against Islamic State, is also fighting Kurdish militants in its largely Kurdish southeast.
One person was killed on Dec 23, 2015, when an explosion hit Istanbul’s second airport, Sabiha Gokcen, located on the Asian side of the city. That attack was claimed by a Kurdish militant group.