October 24, 2016

Istanbul Ataturk airport attack: At least 36 dead and dozens injured

Terrified passengers were seen leaving the airport on foot

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

Three attackers opened fire near an entry point to the terminal and blew themselves up after police fired at them, officials say.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said early signs suggested the so-called Islamic State was behind 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 was long 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.

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”, and said saying America remained “steadfast in our support for Turkey”.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said: “We grieve for the victims. We stand by Turkey”.

‘Dressed in black’

Speaking several hours after Tuesday’s attack, Mr Yildirim said at least 36 people were killed and many wounded, some seriously.

He also said foreigners were likely to be among the dead.

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

Footage has emerged on social media that appears to show a police officer shooting one of the attackers, who detonates a suicide belt as he is lying injured on the ground.

Flights in and out of the airport were suspended after the attack.

The US Federal Aviation Administration grounded all flights between the US and Istanbul.

Taxis were used to rush casualties to hospital after the attack.

Eyewitness Paul Roos told the Associated Press news agency that he was due to fly home to South Africa when the attackers struck.

“We came up from the arrivals to the departures, up the escalator when we heard these shots going off,” he said.

“There was this guy going roaming around, he was dressed in black and he had a handgun.”

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.”

In December, a blast on the tarmac at a different Istanbul airport, Sabiha Gokcen, killed a cleaner. That attack was claimed by a Kurdish group, the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK).

Major recent attacks


  • 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 34. Claimed by TAK.
  • 17 February, Ankara: 29 killed in attack on military busses. Claimed by TAK
  • 12 January, Istanbul: 11 Germans killed by Syrian bomber in tourist area


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

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 sector this year.

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

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.”

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