Suicide bomb attackers kill 31 at airport in Istanbul
At least thirty-one people were killed and 60 injured in an attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport last night.
Istanbul governor Vasip Sahin told Turkey’s NTV television that three suicide bombers carried out the attack.
The death toll was expected to continue to rise last night.
Officials had previously said one or two attackers had blown themselves up at the entrance to the international terminal at the airport after police fired at them.
Early reports indicated that two attackers detonated vests in the arrivals hall of the busy airport at 10pm.
The pair had been trying to pass through the X-ray machine when they were stopped by security officials. When they began shooting with Kalashnikov rifles, the officers returned fire.
Gunfire was also reported by witnesses as coming from the airport’s car park after four armed men were reportedly seen running away from the terminal building seconds after the explosions.
Footage from the airport – Europe’s third busiest – showed terrified children and parents crouched among debris on the floor with screams in the background.
Witnesses reported hearing two violent blasts shake the terminal.
“It was very strong, everyone panicked and started running in all directions,” one witness told local CNN-Turk.
No one claimed responsibility for the attack last night but some security experts said the attack pointed to Isil terrorists.
Ataturk airport is the third busiest airport in Europe. With hundreds of thousands of people travelling through each week, the attack raises serious questions over Turkey’s ability to secure itself.
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the attack, which took place during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, “shows that terrorism strikes with no regard to faith and values”.
Calling on the international community to take a firm stand against terrorism, he said: “Turkey has the power, determination and capacity to continue the fight against terrorism until the end.”
EU leaders at the summit in Brussels condemned the attack.
Belgian prime minister Charles Michel tweeted from the meeting: “Despicable terror attack. Stand together with people of Turkey.”
Dalia Grybauskaite, president of Lithuania, wrote: “Our thoughts are with the victims of the attacks at Istanbul airport. We condemn those atrocious acts of violence.”
In the US, the White House condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the attack on the Istanbul airport and said the United States remains steadfast in its support for Turkey.
Turkey has suffered several bombings in recent months linked to Kurdish or Islamic State group militants.
They included two in Istanbul targeting tourists – which the authorities blamed on Isil.
An Isil suicide bomber killed 10 tourists, most of them German, outside the Blue Mosque in Istanbul in January. The attacks have increased in scale and frequency, scaring off tourists and hurting the economy.
Turkey has suffered from a spillover of the wars in neighbouring Syria and Iraq, with Isil becoming increasingly active in the country.