Three suicide bombers opened fire before blowing themselves up at the entrance to the main international airport in Istanbul on Tuesday, killing approximately 50 people. Broadcaster NTV, citing hospital sources, said that 106 were wounded.
Roads around the airport were sealed off for regular traffic after the attack and several ambulances could be seen driving back and forth. Hundreds of passengers were flooding out of the airport and others were sitting on the grass, their bodies illuminated by the flashing lights of the emergency vehicles.
Twelve-year-old Hevin Zini had just arrived from Dusseldorf with her family and was in tears from the shock.
She told The Associated Press that there was blood on the ground and everything was blown up to bits.
South African Judy Favish, who spent two days in Istanbul as a layover on her way home from Dublin, had just checked in when she heard an explosion followed by gunfire and a loud bang.
She says she hid under the counter for some time.
Favish says passengers were ushered to a cafeteria at the basement level where they were kept for more than an hour before being allowed outside.
Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag earlier said that according to preliminary information, “a terrorist at the international terminal entrance first opened fire with a Kalashnikov and then blew himself up.”
Another official said attackers detonated explosives at the entrance of the international terminal after police fired at them.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government protocol, said the attackers blew themselves up before entering the x-ray security check at the airport entrance.
Turkish airports have security checks at both the entrance of terminal buildings and then later before entry to departure gates.
Islamic State Connection
A senior Turkish government official has told The Associated Press all initial indications suggest the Islamic State group is behind the attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government protocol.
Turkey has suffered several bombings in recent months linked to Kurdish or Islamic State terrorists.
The bombings include two in Istanbul targeting tourists, which the authorities have blamed on the Islamic State group.
The attacks have increased in scale and frequency, scaring off tourists and hurting the economy, which relies heavily on tourism revenues.
Istanbul Ataturk Airport was the 11th busiest airport in the world last year, with 61.8 million passengers, according to the Airports Council International. It is also one of the fastest-growing airports in the world, seeing 9.2 percent more passengers last year than in 2014.
The largest carrier at the airport is Turkish Airlines, which operates a major hub there. Low-cost Turkish carrier Onur Air is the second-largest airline there.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan released a statement condemning the attack on I Ataturk Airport, which took place during the Muslim month of Ramadan. He says the attack “shows that terrorism strikes with no regard to faith and values.”
He called on the international community to take a firm stand against terrorism and vowed to keep up Turkey’s struggle against terror groups: “Turkey has the power, determination and capacity to continue the fight against terrorism until the end,” Erdogan said.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday grounded all flights between the United States and Istanbul following the attack, the agency said in a statement.
Updated Tuesday, June 28, 2016 at 6:57 pm
Updated Tuesday, June 28, 2016 at 7:35 pm casualties