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Carnage after Istanbul airport attack

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A gun and bomb attack on Istanbul’s Ataturk international airport has killed 36 people and injured more than 140 others, officials say.

Three attackers arrived in a taxi and began firing at the terminal entrance late on Tuesday. They blew themselves up after police fired back.

PM Binali Yildirim said early signs pointed to so-called Islamic State but no-one has so far admitted the attack.

Recent bombings have been linked to either IS or Kurdish separatists.

Tuesday’s attack looked like a major co-ordinated assault, says the BBC’s Mark Lowen.

Ataturk airport has long been seen as a vulnerable target, our Turkey correspondent adds, reporting from a plane stuck on the tarmac in Istanbul.

There are X-ray scanners at the entrance to the terminal but security checks for cars are limited.

Pictures from the airport terminal showed bodies covered in sheets, with glass and abandoned luggage littering the building.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the attack should serve as a turning point in the global fight against militant groups.

“The bombs that exploded in Istanbul today could have gone off at any airport in any city around the world,” he said.

The US called the attack “heinous”, saying America remained “steadfast in our support for Turkey”.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere called the attacks “cowardly and brutal”.

‘Dressed in black’

In the first indication of nationalities of victims, Turkish officials said one Iranian and one Ukrainian were confirmed dead.

Reports of the attack vary but it appears the attackers opened fire at the entrance where the X-ray machines are positioned, sparking an exchange with police. At least two ran into the building.

Footage on social media shows one moving through the building as people around him flee. He is shot by police and remains on the ground for about 20 seconds before blowing himself up. All three attackers were killed.

Paul Roos, who was due to fly home to South Africa, told Reuters he saw one of the attackers.

“He was wearing all black. His face was not masked. 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.”

#Pray for Turkey

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag put the number of injured at 147.

Taxis were used to rush casualties to hospital after the attack. Desperate relatives of those missing later gathered outside a local hospital where many victims were taken.

People walk away from Istanbul Ataturk airport
Terrified passengers were seen leaving the airport on foot REUTERS

Flights in and out of the airport were suspended after the attack. They have now resumed, but information boards showed about one-third had been cancelled, with many delays.

Charles Michel, the prime minister of Belgium whose capital city was targeted by bombers in March, tweeted from the EU summit in Brussels: “Our thoughts are with the victims of the attacks at Istanbul’s airport. We condemn these atrocious acts of violence.”

#PrayforTurkey began trending on Twitter after the attack.


Ataturk airport

Map
  • Europe’s third-busiest in passenger traffic after London Heathrow and Paris Charles de Gaulle, serving 61.3 million passengers in 2015. World’s 11th busiest
  • Opened in 1924 in the Yesilkoy area, renamed in the 1980s after the nation’s first president, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk
  • Two passenger terminals: one domestic, one international
  • To be closed after the massive Istanbul New Airport – planned to be the largest in the world – opens in the Arnavutkoy district. Its first phase is due to be operational in 2017

Turkey finds itself facing security crises on a number of fronts.

Gun and bomb attacks over the past two years have been blamed on both Islamic State militants and Kurdish separatists such as the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK).

Officials say TAK normally targets security personnel, whereas the attacks blamed on IS are more often on “soft targets” such as shopping or tourist areas and transport hubs. However, TAK said it carried out an attack on Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen airport in December.

Islamic State was quick to admit carrying out the Brussels attacks but usually remains silent on Turkey, which is a major route for recruits travelling from Europe to its bases in Syria and Iraq.


Major recent attacks

2016

7 June, Istanbul: Car bomb kills seven police officers and four civilians. Claimed by Kurdish militant group TAK

19 March, Istanbul: Suicide bomb kills four people in shopping street. IS blamed

13 March, Ankara: Car bomb kills 35. Claimed by TAK

17 February, Ankara: 29 killed in attack on military buses. Claimed by TAK

12 January, Istanbul: 12 Germans killed by Syrian bomber in tourist area

2015

23 December, Istanbul: Bomb kills cleaner at Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen airport. Claimed by TAK

10 October, Ankara: More than 100 killed at peace rally outside railway station. Blamed on IS

20 July, Suruc, near Syrian border: 34 people killed in bombing in Kurdish town. IS blamed


More than 61 million passengers travelled through Ataturk airport in 2015.

However, security concerns and a Russian boycott over last year’s downing of a Russian military jet on the Turkey-Syria border have hit the Turkish tourist sectorthis year.

A US state department travel warning for Turkey, originally published in March and updated on Monday, urges US citizens to “exercise heightened vigilance and caution when visiting public access areas, especially those heavily frequented by tourists.”

 

Source: BBC

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