Three suicide bombers killed 36 people in an attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk international Airport Tuesday night, with Daesh being the primary suspect, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said.
The attack took place at approximately 9:30 pm local time (1830 GMT), near a security check at the entrance to the arrivals terminal, according to officials. The justice minister said 147 people were injured.
During the attack there were reports of explosions and gunfire, according to witnesses at the airport, one of the busiest in the region.
The prime minister said the airport, a major global transit hub, would reopen after being closed for many hours. Following the attack all planes were diverted to nearby airports.
Among the dead and injured were foreign nationals. The dead suicide attackers were not among those counted in the death toll.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the “terrorist attack,” saying “innocent civilians” were the victims. In a statement following a top level security meeting, he said such an “heinous” attack could occur at any airport in the world.
“We urged the world, especially Western countries, to take a firm stance against terrorism,” he said, vowing to keep up the fight against terror.
It is the worst attack in the city in more than a decade. Daesh has been blamed for a number of attacks in Turkey over the past year.
US State Department had issued a warning of “increased threats” in Turkey on Monday. US media outlets cited US officials saying Islamic State was a key suspect.
The US aviation authorities grounded all flights to and from Istanbul, and President Barack Obama was briefed, according to the White House, which condemned the “heinous terrorist attack,” while recalling the attack on the Brussels airport this year.
The wounded were ferried to nearby hospitals, with a large number of ambulances dispatched.
Following the explosions people were trying to exit the chaotic scene at the airport, while television footage showed hundreds of others waiting outside. Later crowds began forming outside hospitals.
Roads to the airport were backed up significantly.
Police near one of the airport security checks opened fire on two suspects, who then blew themselves up, an official said based on initial information. Turkish media said several police officers were killed during the attack.
Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozag said one of the attackers opened fire with an assault rifle and there were also signs of an explosion near the metro station at the airport.
Videos on social media showed panicked passengers and sounds of gunshots, along with explosions and other activity inside the building. The footage could not be independently verified.
Ataturk has security checks with X-ray machines and metal detectors both at the entrance to the terminal, before the check-in counters, and again by passport control
As is common in such incidents, Turkish authorities imposed a partial broadcast and media ban.
Three weeks ago, 11 people were killed in an attack near Istanbul’s historic Grand Bazaar.
That attack, claimed by the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), followed two suicide bombings that hit tourist-heavy areas of Istanbul this year, blamed on Islamic State.
In December, Sabiha Gokcen airport in Istanbul was hit by mortar fire claimed by TAK killing at least one staff member.
In the latest wave of unrest in Turkey, which began just over a year ago, the largest single attack took place in Ankara last year, killing 100 people. It was blamed on Daesh, which controls territory in Syria along Turkey’s border.
By Shabtai Gold, original article