Istanbul: Suicide attackers armed with guns and bombs killed 41 people and wounded scores of others at Istanbul’s busy Ataturk Airport in an attack the government blamed on Islamic State extremists.
Funerals were expected today for some of the victims – who included at least 23 Turkish citizens and 13 foreign nationals – as Turkish authorities tried to piece together how the attack happened. A Turkish official said authorities are going through surveillance footage and interviewing witnesses to establish a preliminary timeline and details.
The death toll excluded the three bombers, who arrived in a taxi last night and eventually blew themselves up after coming under fire, according to the government, though there were conflicting reports about exactly where they detonated their explosives. Earlier, the same official had said none of the attackers got past security checks at the entrance, with two detonating explosives at the international arrivals terminal and the third in the parking lot. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government protocol.
But the HaberTurk newspaper reported that one attacker blew himself up outside the terminal, and two others opened fire near the X-ray machines. The report said an attacker was shot at while running amid fleeing passengers, then blew himself up at the exit. The third attacker, who went up one level to the international departures terminal, was shot by police and detonated his explosives, according to the report.
Airport surveillance video posted on social media appeared to show the moment of one explosion, a huge ball of fire, and passengers fleeing. Another appeared to show an attacker, felled by a gunshot from a security officer, blowing himself up seconds later.
“So, what can we think? We cannot think anything,” said Ali Batur, whose brother died. “A terror attack might happen everywhere, it happens everywhere. This terror trouble is also in our country. If God permits, we will get over this in unity and solidarity.” As dawn broke over the destroyed terminal, workers began removing debris. An information board inside showed about one-third of scheduled flights were canceled, and a host of others were delayed.
Earlier, the hundreds of passengers who fled the airport in fear were left sitting on the grass outside. Several ambulances drove back and forth, and security vehicles surrounded the scene. The Istanbul governor’s office said more than 230 people were wounded.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said it appeared that the Islamic State group, which has threatened Turkey repeatedly, was responsible. “Even though the indications suggest Daesh, our investigations are continuing,” Yildirim said, using Arabic shorthand for Islamic State. The prime minister called for national unity and “global cooperation” in combatting terrorism.
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