ISTANBUL: Three suspected ISIS suicide bombers opened fire and blew themselves up in Istanbul’s main airport, killing 41 people and wounding almost 230 on Wednesday.
The attack on Europe’s third-busiest airport was one of the deadliest in a series of suicide bombings in recent months in Turkey, part of the US-led coalition against ISIS and struggling to contain spillover from neighbouring Syria’s war.
President Tayyip Erdogan said the attack should serve as a turning point in the global fight against terrorism, which he said had “no regard for faith or values”.
A weapon is seen on the floor at Ataturk airport after suicide bombers opened fire before blowing themselves up at the entrance, in Istanbul, Turkey on June 28, 2016. (Reuters Photo)
Video footage showed one of the attackers inside the terminal building being shot, apparently by a police officer, before falling to the ground as people fled. The attacker then blew himself up around 20 seconds later.
“It’s a jigsaw puzzle … The authorities are going through CCTV footage, witness statements,” a Turkish official said.
The Dogan news agency said autopsies on the three bombers, whose torsos were ripped apart, had been completed and that they may have been foreign nationals, without citing its sources.
Broken ceiling panels littered the curb outside the arrivals section of the international terminal. Entire plates of glass had shattered, exposing the inside of the building, and electric cables dangled from the ceiling. Cleanup crews swept up debris and armed police patrolled as flights resumed.
“There is initial evidence that each of the three suicide bombers blew themselves up after opening fire,” he said. The attackers had come to the airport by taxi and preliminary findings pointed to ISIS responsibility.
Two US counter-terrorism officials familiar with the early stages of investigations said ISIS was at the top of the list of suspects even though there was no evidence yet.
Istanbul’s position bridging Europe and Asia has made Ataturk airport, Turkey’s largest, a major transit hub for passengers across the world. A Ukrainian and an Iranian were among the dead, officials from the two countries said. Saudi media said seven Saudis were among the wounded.
“There were little babies crying, people shouting, broken glass and blood all over the floor. It was very crowded, there was chaos. It was traumatic,” said Diana Eltner, 29, a Swiss psychologist who was travelling from Zurich to Vietnam but had been diverted to Istanbul after she missed a connection.
Delayed travellers were sleeping on floors at the airport, a Reuters witness said, as some passengers and airport staff cried and hugged each other. Police in kevlar vests with automatic weapons prowled the curb side as a handful of travellers and Turkish Airlines crew trickled in.
The two US officials said the Istanbul bombing was more typical of ISIS than of Kurdish militant groups which have also carried out recent attacks in Turkey, but usually target official government targets.
Both officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the probe, which they said is being led by Turkish officials with what they called intelligence support from the United States and other NATO allies.