Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Dozens dead after 3 suicide bombings rock Istanbul's international airport

turkey ataturkParamedics help a man in a wheelchair at Turkey's largest airport, Istanbul Ataturk, after a blast on June 28. REUTERS/Osman Orsal
  • At least 41 people killed.
  • More than 200 injured.
  • Three attackers dead.
  • Police officers and foreign nationals are among those wounded.
  • Air traffic at Ataturk Airport has returned to normal.
Dozens were killed after three suicide bombers blew themselves up at Turkey's largest airport, Istanbul Ataturk, around 10 p.m. local time on Tuesday.
At least 41 people have died, according to Istanbul's governor Vasip Sahin. Turkish officials on Wednesday said that among the dead were 23 Turkish citizens and 13 foreigners. Among the foreign victims are four Saudis, an Iranian, and a Ukrainian. At least 239 people were wounded in the ambush, including police officers and foreign nationals, Sahin confirmed.
Air traffic has returned to normal at the airport.

Istanbul explosionsTurkish police blocks the road as relatives of the passengers wait outside the Turkey's largest airport, Istanbul Ataturk, after the suicide bomb attack on June 28, 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey. Mehmet Ali Poyraz/Getty Images)
One attacker opened fire with an automatic rifle in the departures area, Reuters reported. According to witnesses and officials who spoke with the news wire service, the three attackers detonated themselves on the arrivals level, one floor below. They reportedly arrived at the airport by taxi.
Airport taxis were transporting the wounded to hospitals and the Red Crescent was asking for blood donors.
"People were wounded, people fell down in front of me ... They were torn to pieces," airport worker Hacer Peksen told The Associated Press.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the attack — which was carried out during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan — "heinous."
"The bombs that exploded in Istanbul today could have gone off at any airport in any city," Erdogan said in a statement. "Make no mistake: For terrorist organizations, there is no difference between Istanbul and London, Ankara and Berlin, Izmir and Chicago."
Istanbul Ataturk airport bombingForensic experts work outside Turkey's largest airport, Istanbul Ataturk, Turkey, following a blast, June 28, 2016.REUTERS/Murad Sezer
It is still unconfirmed who is responsible for the attack, which appeared to have been coordinated. The Associated Press said that initial indications suggest ISIS may be responsible for the ambush. 
Prime Minister Yildirim agreed that it appeared ISIS was to blame for the attack.
"This attack, targeting innocent people is a vile, planned terrorist act," he said.
Multiple attacks in Turkey have been linked to ISIS and Kurdish groups in the past year. The Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) is waging an insurgency against the Turkish government, but primarily targets military and security personnel in the country's southeast.
The Ataturk attack "fits the ISIS profile, not PKK," a counterterrorism official told CNN, adding that the PKK doesn't usually go after international targets.
Ataturk is the third-busiest airport in Europe, and the 11th-busiest airport in the world, with at least 61 million travelers passing through in 2015.
Many have noted that Turkey had assigned a extra security to the entrance of Ataturk in the wake of numerous ISIS-linked terrorist attacks in Istanbul in the past several months. Travelers at the airport have to go through security before entering any terminal, then pass through security again once inside. The extra layer of security prevented the attackers from entering the airport, which many analysts say may have saved dozens of lives.
Airport security workers have also been praised for their calm and professional behavior in the midst of the chaos.

Lisa Monaco, assistant to the US president for homeland security and counterterrorism, briefed US President Barack Obama on the attack, according to a White House official.

The White House released an official statement Tuesday evening, likening the attacks to the ones at Brussels Airport in March, and calling it "a symbol of international connections and the ties that bind us together."
The statement continued, "We remain steadfast in our support for Turkey, our NATO Ally and partner, along with all of our friends and allies around the world as we continue to confront the threat of terrorism."
The US State Department renewed its three-month-old travel warning for Turkey on Monday, noting that "Foreign and US tourists have been explicitly targeted by international and indigenous terrorist organizations," in a warning posted on the department's website.
The US consulate is working to determine if US citizens are among the airport attack's victims, the State Department tweeted.
Turkey is part of the US-led coalition against ISIS. The terror group has claimed responsibility for multiple terrorist attacks on Turkish soil since mid-2015.
In January, 13 people were killed and 14 injured in a suicide bombing in a popular central square in Istanbul. The perpetrator was identified as Nabil Fadli, an ISIS follower from Syria.
Last July, ISIS claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in southeastern Turkey that killed 33 young activists. Three months later, an ISIS-linked suicide bombing at a peace rally in Ankara killed over 100 people.
Michael Weiss, co-author of "ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror," noted on Twitter that ISIS has a "lot of motives for attacking Ataturk airport, including the imminent loss of Manbij [in Syria], Turkish shelling of ISIS, and of course Turkish-Israel rapprochement."
The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons — a breakaway faction of the PKK — claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Ankara in February that killed 29 people and another in March that killed 37.
A car bomb claimed by Kurdish separatists ripped through a police bus in central Istanbul on June 7 during the morning rush hour, killing 11 people and wounding 36 near the main tourist district, a major university, and the mayor's office.

Video reportedly shows one of the attackers being shot 

A video has emerged purportedly showing one of the attackers being shot inside the airport. The video was uploaded onto Twitter by the editor-in-chief of Radio Sawt Beirut International. 
Footage shows people running away, followed by a man who is then shot by someone out of sight — reportedly part of Turkish security forces. 
As he falls down after being shot, the man who was running is then seen lying on the floor, struggling. Another person (who seems to be the man who shot him) is seen standing next to him before running away.
A few seconds later, the attacker who is lying on the floor then blows himself up. 
turkey airport attackTwitter/Skitch