Three suicide bombers opened fire then blew themselves up in Istanbul’s main international airport, killing 36 people and wounding close to 150, in a terrorist attack on Tuesday night around 9:50 p.m. (1850 GMT).
This is the latest and most devastating in a series of terrorist attacks in Turkey, a country that has become the new front line in the battle against terrorism, suffering a spate of bombings this year, including two suicide attacks in tourist areas of Istanbul blamed on Islamic State, and two car bombings in the capital, Ankara.
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, speaking to reporters at the airport said, “It became clear with this incident again that terrorism is a global threat. This attack, targeting innocent people is a vile, planned terrorist act”
“There is initial evidence that each of the three suicide bombers blew themselves up after opening fire,” he said, adding that they had come to the airport by taxi and that preliminary findings pointed to Islamic State responsibility.
Eye Witness Accounts:
Stunned passengers at the airport described a chaotic scene as they emerged from the terminal roughly an hour after the attack. Witnesses said at least two explosions took place, while others reported seeing and hearing gunfire. At least three attackers were killed, according to the Turkish authorities.
“There was a huge explosion, extremely loud. The roof came down. Inside the airport it is terrible, you can’t recognise it, the damage is big,” said Ali Tekin, who was at the arrivals hall waiting for a guest when the attack took place.
A local worker had said, “We were working in our office, I was on the night shift, and at first we heard about 10 gunshots, then the first explosion, we left the office and tried to escape, then a second bomb went off and then there were scares everywhere,”
Mehmet Bars tells a source that he was in the baggage claim, having just arrived from Germany, when the attack began. “I stayed down. I go outside. Then one man said to me, ‘Don’t go inside, we must run.’ I run when I see the bomb explode.” He says he heard intermittent gunfire for another 20 minutes.
Paul Roos, 77, described seeing one of the attackers “randomly shooting” in the departures hall. “He was just firing at anyone coming in front of him. He was wearing all black. His face was not masked. I was 50 metres away from him,” said Roos, a South African returning to Cape Town with his wife after a holiday in southern Turkey. “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.”
Ahmed Furkan Gurtuna, who works as a traffic police officer at the airport and was at passport control at the moment of the attack, “I saw how one terrorist accessed the airport, and he had an AK47 and shot civilians… Turkish police wanted to kill him, and after that I heard the bomb explosion,” he said.
As the attackers were shooting randomly at people instigating chaos and panic in the crowd, people were searching for a safe place but were hardly able to find any, another eyewitness recalls.
A local eyewitness at the scene recalled the gruesome details of the attack she experienced, narrowly escaping the fate of those who were killed, “I saw wounded people falling to the ground in front of me, four people fell down, they were torn to pieces,” she said.
A woman named Duygu, who was at passport control having just arrived from Germany, said she threw herself onto the floor with the sound of the explosion. “Everyone started running away. Everywhere was covered with blood and body parts. I saw bullet holes on the doors”.
Others had the bewildering experience of landing as the attack was under way. Amit Pujari, a 23-year-old medical student, landed in Istanbul following a trip to Italy. “I think some shots were fired around passport control, because there was a bunch of shattered glass,” he says. “If there’s like 25 stalls you can pass through, the first five had shattered glass.”
Witnesses say hundreds of passengers found themselves trapped inside the airport while security forces cleared the area. Later, stunned passengers began to stream out of the international terminal. One sobbing woman rushed to embrace another. A man stumbled out wearing what appeared to be a bandage on his forehead. Some held handwritten signs in the air as they attempted to locate friends and family they’d lost track of in the chaos.
Furthermore, President Tayyip Erdogan had reportedly said the attack should serve as a turning point in the global fight against militant groups. Speaking to reporters he said, “The attack, which took place during the holy month of Ramadan, shows that terrorism strikes with no regard for faith and values,” he said in a statement. “The bombs that exploded in Istanbul today could have gone off at any airport in any city around the world,” he said, urging all governments to join forces against terrorism.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.
People worldwide flock to twitter to mourn with Istanbul attack victims with trending #PrayForTurkey.