ISTANBUL (AFP) – A triple suicide bombing and gun attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport killed at least 36 people and left scores wounded, in the latest deadly strike to rock Turkey’s biggest city.
The attackers began spraying bullets at airport guards at the terminal entrance and a shootout erupted before they blew themselves up one by one at around 10pm Turkish authorities said.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the death toll at the airport stood at 36, while the Dogan news agency said that 88 others were injured.
Erdogan urged an international “joint fight” against terror after the attack, the fourth deadly bombing in Istanbul this year alone.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which prompted the suspension of all flights in and out of the airport, Turkey’s busiest. The airport resumed operations a little after 3a.m.
Istanbul Governor Vasip Sahin said three suicide bombers had carried out the attack, striking during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Security camera footage widely circulated on social media appeared to capture two of the blasts. In one clip a huge ball of flame erupts at an entrance to the terminal building, scattering terrified passengers.
Another video shows a black-clad attacker running inside the building before collapsing to the ground – apparently felled by a police bullet – and blowing himself up.
Witnesses described scenes of panic as the blasts hit, while images on social media showed passengers lying on the floor and luggage trolleys overturned. “It was very strong, everyone panicked and started running in all directions,” one witness told CNN Turk.
Security staff yelled at passengers as they rushed to evacuate them from the airport. Police set up a security cordon around the site, while a dozen ambulances rushed to the scene.
An AFP photographer saw bodies covered with sheets at the terminal, which bore heavy damage from the blasts. Bullet holes peppered the windows and shattered glass lay on the floor, while abandoned luggage was scattered everywhere.
Hundreds of police and firefighters including forensic officers were at the scene.
“Somebody came and shot at us and then my sister was running,” Otfah Mohamed Abdullah told AFP. “I don’t know which way she was running and after that I was falling down. I was on the ground till he finished… I can’t find my sister.”
Police set up a security cordon around the site as a dozen ambulances rushed to the scene.
There was panic at the nearest hospital in Istanbul’s Bakirkoy district, which was inundated with relatives desperate for news of loved ones.
Turkey has been hit by a string of deadly attacks in the past year, blamed on both Kurdish rebels and the Islamic State militant group.
The Turkish airport attack also follows coordinated suicide bombings at Brussels airport and a city metro station in March that left 32 people dead.
Brussels airport tweeted its condolences, saying: “Our thoughts are with the victims of the attacks at @istanbulairport. “We wish them, their relatives & all airport staff strength & courage.” Our thoughts are with the victims of the attacks at@istanbulairport. We wish them, their relatives & all airport staff strength & courage.
Dogan news agency cited police sources indicating IS is believed to have played a role, though Turkish officials said it was too early to confirm a link. Security expert Abdullah Agar told CNN the attack bore the hallmarks of a militant attack.
NO PINOYS HURT
There are no reports of Filipinos killed or injured in a series of deadly explosions in Turkey’s largest airport, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Wednesday.
DFA Sec. Jose Rene Almendras said initial findings from the Philippine Embassy in Ankara show that there have been none affected by the attacks in Istanbul’s Atatürk international airport. Almendras said that the agency continues to monitor hospitals there. (PNA)