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.
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