|A gun lies on the floor of Ataturk airport in Istanbul
after the attack. (140journo via Reuters)
NYTNS AND REUTERS,TT, Istanbul, June 29: Three suicide attackers killed at least 41 people and wounded 239 at Istanbul’s main airport last night in the latest in a string of terrorist attacks in Turkey, once seen as a bastion of stability but now increasingly consumed by the chaos of West Asia.
Hours after the assault, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim of Turkey said that early indications pointed to an Islamic State operation. As of Wednesday evening, the group had not claimed responsibility.
John Brennan, the head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), said in Washington that the Istanbul airport attack bore the hallmarks of Islamic State’s “depravity”.
The attack on Ataturk, Europe’s third-busiest airport, was the deadliest in a series of suicide bombings this year in Turkey, part of the US-led coalition against the Islamic State and struggling to contain the spillover from neighbouring Syria’s war.
There was speculation that it might have been a response by the Islamic State to the recent reconciliation between Turkey and Israel.
Turkey President Tayyip Erdogan said the attack should serve as a turning point and called for global unity in the fight against terrorism. “The bombs that exploded in Istanbul today could have gone off at any airport in any city around the world,” he said.
The victims reflected the cosmopolitan and international character of Istanbul, a hub for tens of millions of passengers each year connecting to Europe, West Asia, Africa and beyond.
Five Saudis and two Iraqis were among the dead. Citizens from China, Jordan, Tunisia, Uzbekistan, Iran and Ukraine were also among the 13 foreigners killed.
One man worked as a Turkish translator and was escorting tourists back to the airport. One woman, an airport worker, was looking forward to her wedding in 10 days. There were taxi drivers and a customs officer. And there was a Turkish couple who worked together – and died together.
No Indian casualty had been reported till evening. The airport had at least 200 Indians but they left in two planes two hours before the attack.
A majority of the victims appeared to be Muslims. If the bombings are confirmed to be the work of the Islamic State, it would show once again that the group, which portrays itself as defending Islam and fighting western powers, kills far more Muslims on the battlefields of Iraq and Syria or in terrorist attacks in the region, than it does non-Muslims.
President Erdogan noted that the bombing came during the holy month of Ramazan.
The attack bore similarities to a suicide bombing by Islamic State militants at Brussels airport in March.
“In Istanbul they used a combination of the methods employed in Paris and Brussels. They planned a murder that would maximise fear and loss of life,” said Suleyman Ozeren, an analyst at the Ankara-based Global Policy and Strategy Institute.
At the Istanbul airport, one attacker opened fire in the departures hall with an automatic rifle, sending passengers diving for cover and trying to flee, before all three blew themselves up in or around the arrivals hall a floor below, witnesses and officials said.
Video footage showed one of the attackers inside the terminal building being shot, apparently by a police officer, before falling to the ground as people scattered. The attacker then blew himself up around 20 seconds later.