Istanbul has been on a high security alert for months after three deadly attacks in the city this year blamed on Islamic State jihadis and the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK), a radical offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK). Less than a month ago a car suicide bomber killed 12 people and wounded several others in the central Istanbul district of Vezneciler.
Globally, terror attacks on the ‘soft’ target of airports are common, and increasingly so. Below is a list, not comprehensive, of the major attacks on airports over the past five years.
June 26, 2016 - Three suspected Islamic State group suicide bombers targeted the international terminal of Istanbul’s Ataturk airport, killing at least 36 people and wounding many others, Turkish officials said.
June 12, 2016 - An explosion at a check-in-area of Shanghai’s main international airport injures four people. The blast at Pudong International Airport, China’s second-busiest, was carried out using fireworks stuffed inside empty beer bottles.
March 22, 2016 - 16 people are killed in two suicide bombings as bombs ripped through check-in counters at Brussels Airport. The Islamic State group claims responsibility for the attack. A subsequent explosion at a Brussels subway station killed 16 more people.
March 7 2016 - A bomb explodes in a piece of luggage at an airport in a central Somali town, wounding three people. Somalia’s Islamic extremist rebels, al-Shabab, claim responsibility for the blast.
December 28, 2015 - A suicide car bomb attack killed at least one civilian near the eastern entrance of the Kabul international airport. Another 13 civilians were wounded. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.
March 21, 2015 - A machete-wielding man attacks TSA officers at New Orleans’ international airport and is shot and killed. Authorities later said he was carrying a bag loaded with Molotov cocktails. One of the TSA officers was slightly injured.
July 18, 2012 - A bomb explodes on a bus carrying Israeli tourists at the airport in Burgas, Bulgaria, killing five of the tourists, the Bulgarian bus driver and the suicide bomber. Another 35 people are hurt. In 2014, Bulgaria’s interior minister says he is convinced the Shiite militant group Hezbollah was behind the bus bombing.
February 27, 2012 - Suicide car bomber struck at the gates of Jalalabad airport in eastern Afghanistan, killing nine people. The Taliban said the attack on the airport, which serves both civilian and international military aircraft, was revenge for the burning of Muslim holy books at an American military base.
January 24, 2011 - Suicide bomber blew himself up in the international arrivals area of Moscow’s Domodedovo airport, killing 37 people and wounded 180 others and was claimed by Chechen rebels. Russia’s Federal Investigative Committee later identified the suicide bomber as a 20-year-old from the North Caucasus region.
Air Ambulance Medevac
Gunmen armed with kalashnikovs and and suicide vests, stormed the entrance to Istanbul’s Atatürk airport shortly after 9pm on Tuesday, killing 36 people and injuring 147.
Turkey’s prime minister has said the attack was carried out by agents of Daesh -using the Arabic term for Isis - but the terror network has not yet claimed responsibility for the attack.
At least two gunmen were involved in the assault, but authorities suspect a third man was also involved. The men caught a taxi to the airport, emerging at the international arrivals terminal where they opened fire.
South African tourist Paul Roos described seeing a gunman shooting at at people indiscriminately.
We came right to international departures and saw the man randomly shooting. 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.
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.
The terrorists were unable to get past the airport’s x-ray security checkpoint, and became involved in a firefight with security and police.
Several video clips circulating online purport to show the gunmen attacking the airport.
Because of their graphic nature, The Guardian has chosen not to show these, and stresses they have not been verified or corroborated. Sources, however, have told The Guardian that the clips seem authentic.
One graphic piece of footage shows people fleeing a man dressed in black and carrying what appears to be a Kalashnikov, who runs into a hall area, before falling, apparently shot, and dropping his weapon, which slides away from him on the floor.
A man, believed to be a policeman or security official, approaches the prone gunman, appearing to point a gun at him for several seconds. The standing man then runs from the prone bomber who, after several seconds, detonates the explosive vest he is wearing.
The attack on Turkey’s largest airport, and the third-busiest in Europe, is yet another ‘soft’ target attack, following on from the attack on Brussels airport in March which killed 32 people and injured more than 300.
It is also the third attack on Turkey’s biggest city this year.
Istanbul has been on a high security alert for months after three deadly attacks in the city blamed on Islamic State jihadis and the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks, a radical offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ party. Less than a month ago a car suicide bomber killed 12 people and wounded several others in the central Istanbul district of Vezneciler.
In the aftermath of the attack, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the attack showed “the dark face of terror that targets innocent civilians”.
Erdoğan urged the whole world to unite in the fight against terrorism.
“Despite paying a heavy price, Turkey has the power, determination and capacity to continue the fight against terrorism until the end. Today’s attack targeted 79 million Turkish citizens along with 7.5 billion human beings around the world. The bombs that exploded in Istanbul today could have gone off at any airport in any city around the world.
“Make no mistake: For terrorist organizations, there is no difference between Istanbul and London, Ankara and Berlin, Izmir and Chicago, or Antalya and Rome. Unless all governments and the entire[ty of] mankind join forces in the fight against terrorism, much worse things than what we fear to imagine today will come true.”
Speaking at the airport, Turkish prime minister Binali Yildirim said: “our security force’s findings indicate that this terror attack was done by DAESH but we are still working to determine who is behind the attack”.
Yildrim also said it was “noteworthy that this heinous terror attack took place at a time when [Turkey] successfully fights separatist terror and enters a period of normalisation with our neighbours”, an apparent reference to Turkey’s recent rapprochement with Israel and Russia.
Atatürk airport was closed for only a matter of hours before being reopened to flights in and out of the country.
Air Ambulance Medevac Turkey
Gunshots, screams and explosions pierced the air Tuesday at Istanbul Ataturk Airport, as three terrorists armed with bombs and guns attacked passengers at one of the world's busiest travel spots.
Witnesses described deadly carnage and crowds in a panic as the attackers struck.
At least 36 people were killed, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said, in the terror attack, one for which there was no immediate claim of responsibility.
Another 147 people were wounded, Turkey's Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said.
Sue Savage was in the airport to see a friend off when she heard gunshots and then an explosion, which she knew was a bomb. Then more gunshots and another boom, she told "Erin Burnett OutFront."She ducked into a men's prayer room and then into a men's toilet, where she hid in a stall with a young woman. They came out, perhaps 20 or 30 minutes later, and heard more screams and gunshots and ducked into a room where luggage is inspected.
She and about 30 people were herded into a women's prayer room until authorities led them out and down an escalator into the main terminal hall.
"There was a lot of blood," she said. The floor was marked with bloody boot marks and she saw a woman's scarf on the floor. The group was herded around to the other side of the room.
"There was so much glass on the floor they were scuffing it aside so we didn't slip," she said.
Photos: Istanbul airport attacked
Video from inside the airport terminal shows people racing away as fast as they could and the bright orange flash of fire from one of the explosions. Victims stagger and some fall from the now blood-covered, slick floor.
Another video shows a man walking with a gun, which he drops when he apparently is shot by a security officer. The man slumps to the ground and the officer briefly stands over him before running. About 10 seconds later, there is an explosion.
Traveler Laurence Cameron described what he saw after he stepped off a plane.
"It was just a massive crowd of screaming people. Some were falling over themselves. A poor chap in a wheelchair was just left, and everyone just rushed to the back of the building, and then people ran the other way and no one really seemed to know what was going on," he told CNN. "Where you normally hail a taxi, that is where the attack happened. The ground is just kind of shredded. There are bloodstains on the floor as well."
Terrorist attack in Istanbul Ataturk airport