41 dead in Istanbul airport attack blamed on Islamic State

June 29, 2016 05:08 am | Updated November 17, 2021 04:33 am IST - 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 on 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 cancelled, 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 abbreviation for Islamic State.

Turkey has suffered several bombings in recent months linked to Kurdish or Islamic State group militants.

The bombings include two in Istanbul targeting tourists which the authorities have blamed on the Islamic State group.

The attacks have increased in scale and frequency, scaring off tourists and hurting the economy, which relies heavily on tourism revenues.

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.

The largest carrier at the airport is Turkish Airlines, which operates a major hub there. Low-cost Turkish carrier Onur Air is the second-largest airline there.

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