Turkey airport attack: 41 killed in explosions at Istanbul Atatürk
A series of deadly explosions tore through crowds at Istanbul’s Atatürk international airport on Tuesday evening, leaving at least 41 people dead and scores more injured in an attack official blamed on the Islamic State terror group.
Shortly before the blasts, assailants armed with AK-47 rifles became involved in a firefight with security and police near the airport’s x-ray security checkpoint.
At least two of the gunmen then detonated what are believed to have been suicide bombs. Three attackers died on the scene, said the Turkish prime minister, Binali Yıldırım.
By Wednesday morning, 18 bodies had been identified, including a young married couple working in ground services, several tourism guides and one taxi driver.
The Istanbul governor’s office said 23 Turks, 10 foreigners and three dual nationals were among the dead. Turkish officials said five Saudis, two Iraqis, an Iranian, a Chinese, a Jordanian, a Tunisian, an Uzbek and a Ukrainian were killed in the attack, and Turkish national broadcaster TRT reported that five of the dead were police officers.
The governor’s office also said at least 239 people were wounded in the attack, and that 109 of those had been discharged from hospital by early on Wednesday afternoon.
Iran’s Tasnim news agency quoted deputy foreign minister Hassan Qashqavi as saying five Iranian nationals had been injured in addition to the person killed, while the Ukrainian foreign ministry said a second Ukrainian was injured. The Saudi embassy said seven of its nationals were among the injured.
In a press conference in Istanbul on Tuesday night, Yıldırım said: “No matter where the terror comes from, our country is strong enough to fight against this terror. I call on every citizen to act in unity and stand by each other.” He said that by 2.22am local time air traffic was “back to normal and flights are resumed”.
A witness told Reuters that before the explosions one of the gunmen opened fire at random as he walked through the terminal.
“He was just firing at anyone coming in front of him. He was wearing all black. His face was not masked. I was 50 metres away from him,” said Paul Roos, 77, a South African tourist on his way back to Cape Town with his wife.
“We ducked behind a counter but I stood up and watched him. Two explosions went off shortly after one another. By that time he had stopped shooting.”
“He turned around and started coming towards us. He was holding his gun inside his jacket. He looked around anxiously to see if anyone was going to stop him and then went down the escalator … We heard some more gunfire and then another explosion, and then it was over.”
Security camera footage circulating on social media was said to show the moment one of the attackers was shot by a security guard. The footage, which could not be verified, showed the assailant dropping what appeared to be an assault rifle before collapsing to the floor. Seconds later he appeared to activate a suicide bomb.
“There were the sounds of gunfire, it was like thunder, then there was a fireball everywhere,” a taxi driver, named as Fatih, told CNNTurk. “My front window blew out, the car in front of me was turned into scrap.”
Fatih said that at the most two minutes passed between the gunfire and the explosion.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called on all governments, especially in the west, to join forces in taking a “firm stand against terror”.
“The bombs that exploded in Istanbul today could have gone off at any airport in any city around the world. Make no mistake: for terrorist organisations there is no difference between Istanbul and London, Ankara and Berlin, Izmir and Chicago or Antalya and Rome.
“Unless all government and the entire mankind join forces in the fight against terrorism, much worse things than what we fear to imagine today will come true.”
Turkey’s justice minister, Bekir Bozdağ, told parliament in Ankara of the attack.