41 dead; Istanbul Attack Blamed on IS 06/29 06:56
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.
ISTANBUL (AP) -- 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 Wednesday 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 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 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.
Turkey has suffered a series of attacks, and the increasing frequency and
scale have scared away visitors and devastated the economy, which relies
heavily on tourism. The country is a key partner in the U.S.-led coalition
against Islamic State and a NATO member.
Turkey shares long, porous borders with Syria and Iraq, war-torn countries
where IS controls large pockets of territory. Authorities have blamed IS for
several major bombings over the past year, including on the capital Ankara, as
well as attacks on tourists in Istanbul.
The government has stepped up controls at airports and land borders and
deported thousands of foreign fighters, but has struggled to tackle the
extremist threat while also conducting security operations against Kurdish
rebels, who have also been blamed for some recent deadly attacks.
The devastation at Istanbul's airport follows the March attack on the
Brussels airport, where two suicide bombings ripped through check-in counters,
killing 16 people. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for that
attack, as well as a subsequent explosion at a Brussels subway station that
killed 16 more people.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said on Twitter: "Our thoughts are
with the victims of the attacks at Istanbul's airport. We condemn these
atrocious acts of violence."
Turkish airports have security checks at both the entrance of terminal
buildings and then later before entry to departure gates.
Judy Favish, a South African who spent two days in Istanbul as a layover on
her way home from Dublin, had just checked in when she heard an explosion
followed by gunfire and a loud bang.
She said she hid under the counter, then passengers were ushered to a
basement cafeteria where they were kept for more than an hour before being
Two South African tourists, Paul and Susie Roos from Cape Town, due to fly
home at the time of the explosions.
"We came up from the arrivals to the departures, up the escalator when we
heard these shots going off," Paul Roos said. "There was this guy going roaming
around, he was dressed in black and he had a handgun."
The prime minister called for national unity and "global cooperation" in
"This (attack) has shown once again that terrorism is a global threat,"
Yildirim said. "This is a heinous planned attack that targeted innocent people."
He suggested that the attack was linked to what he said was Turkey's success
against Kurdish rebels, as well as steps Ankara took Monday toward mending
strained ties with Israel and Russia.
Yildirim said there were no immediate indications that other attackers were
Dozens of anxious friends and relatives waited early Wednesday outside
Istanbul's Bakirkoy Hospital.
"You can hear that people are wailing here," said Serdar Tatlisu, a relative
of a victim. "We cannot cope anymore, we can't just stay still. We need some
kind of solution for whatever problem there is."
Turkey is beset by an array of security threats, including from ultra-left
radicals, Kurdish rebels demanding greater autonomy in the restive southeast,
and IS militants.
On Jan. 12, an attack that Turkish authorities blamed on IS claimed the
lives of a dozen German tourists visiting Istanbul's historic sites. On March
19, a suicide bombing rocked Istanbul's main pedestrian street, killing five
people, including the bomber, whom the authorities identified as a Turkish
national linked to IS.
Last October, twin suicide bombings hit a peace rally outside Ankara's train
station, killing 102 people. There was no claim of responsibility but Turkish
authorities blamed the attack on a local Islamic State cell.
Istanbul's Ataturk Airport was the 11th busiest airport in the world last
year, with 61.8 million passengers, according to Airports Council
International. It is also one of the fastest-growing airports in the world,
seeing 9.2 percent more passengers last year than in 2014.