Istanbul Ataturk airport attack: 41 dead and more than 230 hurt

  • 29 June 2016
  • From the section Europe
Ataturk airport on 28 June after a suicide attack Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Turkey said early signs suggested so-called Islamic State was behind the attack

A gun and bomb attack on Istanbul's Ataturk airport has killed 41 people, at least 13 of them foreigners, and injured more than 230, officials say.

Three attackers arrived in a taxi and began firing at the terminal entrance late on Tuesday. They blew themselves up after police fired back.

PM Binali Yildirim said early signs pointed to so-called Islamic State but no-one has so far admitted 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 has long been 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.

Media captionBBC reporter Mark Lowen reports from on board a plane stuck on the tarmac

Pictures from the airport terminal showed bodies covered in sheets, with glass and abandoned luggage littering the building.

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", saying America remained "steadfast in our support for Turkey".

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere called the attacks "cowardly and brutal".

'Dressed in black'

Istanbul's governor confirmed 41 people had died and 239 were injured in the attack. At least 13 of those killed were of foreign or dual nationality. Some 109 of those hurt have now been discharged from hospital.

One Iranian and one Ukrainian were confirmed dead.

Media captionFootage shows passengers taking cover inside the airport
Media captionWill Carter, eyewitness: "We saw a flash of fire"

Reports of the attack vary but it appears the attackers opened fire at the entrance where the X-ray machines are positioned, sparking an exchange with police. At least two ran into the building.

Footage on social media shows one moving through the building as people around him flee. He is shot by police and remains on the ground for about 20 seconds before blowing himself up. All three attackers were killed.


Analysis: BBC security correspondent, Frank Gardner

The lack of any immediate claim for this attack by so-called Islamic State is not surprising. IS rarely, if ever, claims responsibility for attacks against the Turkish state yet it is quick to advertise its assassinations of Syrian activists inside Turkey.

All the signs point towards IS being the culprits. This is what British counter-terrorism officials term "a marauding terrorist firearms attack", following a pattern first seen in the Mumbai attacks of 2008.

The Istanbul targets were international air travellers and ground staff at an iconic location, the third busiest airport in Europe.

IS is targeting Turkey because it sees its government as being un-Islamic and too close to its Western allies in Nato. IS is also feeling the pressure as the Turkish authorities move to close down its networks inside Turkey.

Turkey's other main foe, Kurdish separatists, have carried out many attacks over the years but their primary targets have tended to be Turkish policemen and soldiers.


Paul Roos, who was due to fly home to South Africa, told Reuters he saw one of the attackers.

"He was wearing all black. His face was not masked. We ducked behind a counter but I stood up and watched him. Two explosions went off shortly after one another. By that time he had stopped shooting.

"He turned around and started coming towards us. He was holding his gun inside his jacket. He looked around anxiously to see if anyone was going to stop him and then went down the escalator. We heard some more gunfire and then another explosion, and then it was over."

#Pray for Turkey

Taxis were used to rush casualties to hospital after the attack. Desperate relatives of those missing later gathered outside a local hospital where many victims were taken.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Terrified passengers were seen leaving the airport on foot
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Armed police sealed off the area
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A Kalashnikov assault rifle was later found at the scene of the attack
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Ambulances flocked to the airport after explosions were heard
Image copyright EPA
Image caption A number of injured people were taken to local hospitals

Flights in and out of the airport were suspended after the attack. They have now resumed, but information boards showed about one-third had been cancelled, with many delays.

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."

#PrayforTurkey began trending on Twitter after the attack.


Ataturk airport

  • Europe's third-busiest in passenger traffic after London Heathrow and Paris Charles de Gaulle, serving 61.3 million passengers in 2015. World's 11th busiest
  • Opened in 1924 in the Yesilkoy area, renamed in the 1980s after the nation's first president, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk
  • Two passenger terminals: one domestic, one international
  • To be closed after the massive Istanbul New Airport - planned to be the largest in the world - opens in the Arnavutkoy district. Its first phase is due to be operational in 2017

Major recent attacks

2016

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 35. Claimed by TAK

17 February, Ankara: 29 killed in attack on military buses. Claimed by TAK

12 January, Istanbul: 12 Germans killed by Syrian bomber in tourist area

2015

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. Blamed on IS

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

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