Sunday 18 March 2018

Terrorism fears as blast on Turkish airplane kills cleaner

Sabiha Gokcen Airport in Istanbul
Sabiha Gokcen Airport in Istanbul

Colin Freeman in London

An explosion aboard a plane at Turkey's international airport killed an airline cleaner yesterday, triggering a security alert as the authorities sought to determine whether a bomb was responsible.

Armed police sealed off part of Sabiha Gokcen, Istanbul's second airport, early yesterday morning. The blast injured a second cleaner and damaged five planes standing hundreds of feet away. While the cause is not yet known, aviation experts warned last night that the explosion appeared to be a bomb.

There has been a wave of Isil-sponsored terror attacks in Turkey which could raise concerns that the group has been able to breach airport security.

The blast took place around 2am local time as the cleaner, Zehra Yamac (30), was working on a plane belonging to Pegasus airlines, Turkey's main budget carrier. Witnesses reported hearing up to three separate explosions. Police armed with rifles imposed tight security at entrances to the airport.

It was unclear whether the blast occurred inside the plane or at a location next to it. No passengers were in the area at the time. The explosion damaged at least four other planes as far as 300 yards away.

Turkish police had not commented on the cause last night, but British aviation security experts said it was unlikely it could have been due to a routine mechanical malfunction on the plane.

Damage to windows in the airport suggested they had been hit by shrapnel, said Matthew Finn, managing director of the London-based aviation security firm Augmentiq.

"It is too early at this stage to have any definitive thoughts, but what stands out most is what appears to be shrapnel damage on the airport windows, plus the damage done to planes some distance away. All of these point to it being some kind of bomb," he said.


"Other scenarios don't really stand up. There are things like the cooker in the galley of a plane that could malfunction and hurt someone, but the blast radius is so wide that it looks like it was some kind of device. The question then is how did it get into the airport, and what is security like there?"

Bomb attacks by Kurdish, Leftist and Islamist militants are common in Turkey. A long-running conflict between the state and the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has flared up in Turkey's mainly Kurdish south-east since the collapse of a ceasefire in July.

Binali Yildirim, Turkey's transport minister, said: "At this moment it's too early to give a verdict but I want to emphasise there is no weakness concerning security." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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