Islamic State blamed as Turkey mourns 42 victims

The death toll from the Istanbul airport suicide attack has risen to 42.

Islamic State blamed as Turkey mourns 42 victims

Hundreds more were injured at Ataturk Airport in Tuesday night’s terror.

The government blamed the attack on Islamic State (IS) extremists but there was no immediate confirmation from the group.

Airport surveillance video posted on social media shows the moment of one explosion, a ball of fire that sent terrified passengers racing for safety, while another shows an attacker felled by a gunshot from a security officer blowing himself up seconds later.

A growing stream of travellers, some rolling suitcases behind them, fled down a corridor, looking fearfully over their shoulders.

“Four people fell in front of me. They were torn into pieces,” said airport worker Hacer Peksen.

The victims included at least 23 Turkish citizens and 13 foreigners, and the Istanbul governor’s office said more than 230 people had been injured.

The victims included at least 13 foreigners and several people remained unidentified yesterday.

The toll excluded the three bombers.

The bombers had arrived in a taxi and eventually blew themselves up after coming under fire, according to the Turkish government, though there are conflicting reports about exactly where they detonated their explosives.

IS has not yet claimed responsibility for the attack, although it did issue an infographic celebrating two years since announcing a caliphate. It claimed to have ‘covert units’ in Turkey, among other places.

Funerals for some of the victims began as Turkish authorities continued to try and piece together how the attack happened.

The HaberTurk newspaper reported one attacker blew himself up outside the terminal, and two others opened fire near the X-ray machines.

The report said an attacker was shot at while running amid fleeing passengers, then blew himself up at the exit. It said the third attacker went up one level to the international departures terminal, was shot by police and detonated his explosives.

As dawn broke over the destroyed terminal, workers began removing debris from the blast. The airport reopened, though flights were subject to cancellation and delay.

Turkish PM Binali Yildirim said it appeared that IS, also known as Daesh, which has threatened Turkey repeatedly, was responsible.

“Even though the indications suggest Daesh, our investigations are continuing,” he said.

He also suggested the attack could be linked to steps Ankara took on Monday towards mending strained ties with Israel and Russia. He called for national unity and “global co-operation” in combating terrorism.

“This has shown once again that terrorism is a global threat,” Mr Yildirim said. “This is a heinous planned attack that targeted innocent people.”

Russian president Vladimir Putin phoned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to express condolences for the Istanbul attack, as well as to begin a process of improving relations with the country.

Turkey has suffered a series of attacks of increasing frequency that have scared away visitors and devastated its economy, which relies heavily on tourism.

The country is also a key partner in the US-led coalition against IS.

Turkey is beset by an array of security threats, including from ultra-left radicals, Kurdish rebels demanding greater autonomy in the restive south-east, and IS militants.

It shares long, porous borders with Syria and Iraq, where IS controls large pockets of territory.

Turkish authorities have blamed IS for several major bombings over the past year, including on the capital Ankara, as well as attacks on tourists in Istanbul.

Turkish airports have security checks at both the entrance of terminal buildings and then later before entry to departure gates.

The government has stepped up controls at airports and land borders and deported thousands of foreign fighters, but has struggled to tackle the extremist threat while also conducting security operations against Kurdish rebels, who have also been blamed for some recent deadly attacks.

The devastation at Istanbul’s airport echoed the March 22 attack on the Brussels airport, which killed 16 people. IS claimed responsibility for that attack, as well as an explosion at a Brussels metro station that killed 16 more people.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said on Twitter: “Our thoughts are with the victims of the attacks at Istanbul’s airport. We condemn these atrocious acts of violence.”

South African tourists Paul and Susie Roos, from Cape Town, were due to fly home at the time of the explosions.

“We came up from the arrivals to the departures, up the escalator when we heard these shots going off,” Mr Roos said.

Attacked airport re-opens within 12 hours

Ayla Jean Yackley    

Walking through Istanbul airport to their planes hours after suicide bombers killed 42 people with gunfire and explosives, travellers could almost trace the steps of the attackers from the bullet holes and twisted metal still in full view.

Workers replaced ceiling panels, cleanup crews swept up debris, but blood stains and shattered windows were still visible as the departure halls filled again.

Turkish Airlines resumed services in and out of Europe’s third-busiest airport within 12 hours of Tuesday night’s attacks, although many flights were rescheduled and it offered refunds to passengers booked via Istanbul for the next five days if they no longer wanted to travel.

It was a contrast to the suicide bombings at Brussels Airport which killed 16 people in March. There it took 12 days to reopen the airport, much more heavily damaged, to a thin stream of passenger flights.

“That Istanbul airport is operating today is a testament to the resilience and determination of the Turkish people and the aviation industry,” said Tony Tyler, head of the International Air Transport Association.

Tuesday’s attack was the deadliest of five bombings in Turkey’s biggest city this year.

Murat, a tour operator who hung a Turkish flag outside his shop inside the arrivals hall, said Turks’ ability to put terrible events behind them was a virtue and borne of necessity after decades of fighting extremism.

But where some saw defiance in the swift reopening of Ataturk airport, others regretted that such attacks had become all too familiar not only in Turkey but the world at large.

More in this section

IE_logo_newsletters

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox