Istanbul : Suicide attackers killed dozens and wounded more than 140 at Istanbuls busy Ataturk Airport, the latest in a series of bombings to strike Turkey in recent months. Turkish officials said the massacre was most likely the work of the Islamic State group.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said 36 people died Tuesday as well as the three suicide bombers. Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said 147 were wounded.
Another senior government official told The Associated Press the death toll could climb much higher. The senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government protocol, at first said close to 50 people had already died, but later said that the figure was expected to rise to close to 50.
The recent attacks on a key partner in the US-led coalition against IS and a NATO member have increased in scale and frequency. They have scared off tourists and hurt the Turkish economy, which relies heavily on tourism.
Hundreds of passengers who fled the airport in fear were left sitting on the grass outside. Several ambulances drove back and forth, and security vehicles surrounded the scene.
Adam Keally, from Boston, said he heard gunfire followed, by several explosions, then saw people very badly injured.
Hevin Zini, 12, had just arrived from Duesseldorf, Germany, with her family and was in tears.
There was blood on the ground, she told AP. Everything was blown up to bits if we had arrived two minutes earlier, it could have been us.
Yildirim, speaking to reporters at the airport, said all initial indications suggested the Islamic State group was behind the attacks.
The findings of our security forces point at the Daesh organization as the perpetrators of this terror attack, Yildirim said, using the Arabic name for IS. Even though the indications suggest Daesh, our investigations are continuing.
Turkey shares long, porous borders with Syria and Iraq, war-torn countries where IS controls large pockets of territory. 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.
Turkey has stepped up controls at airports and land borders and deported thousands of foreign fighters, but has struggled to tackle the threat of IS militants while also conducting vast security operations against Kurdish rebels, who have also been blamed for recent deadly attacks.
The devastation at Istanbuls airport follows the March attack on Brussels Airport, where two suicide bombings ripped through check-in counters, killing 16 people. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for that attack, as well as a subsequent explosion at a Brussels subway station that killed 16 more people.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said on Twitter: Our thoughts are with the victims of the attacks at Istanbuls airport. We condemn these atrocious acts of violence.
Yildirim said air traffic at Ataturk Airport, which was suspended after the attack and stranded hundreds of passengers, had resumed early Wednesday. A stoppage of flights to and from the United States and Istanbul lasted several hours but was later lifted, said a US official who spoke on background to discuss sensitive security issues.
Yildirim said the attackers arrived at the airport in a taxi and blew themselves up after opening fire. Asked whether a fourth attacker might have escaped, he said authorities have no such assessment but are considering every possibility.
Another Turkish official said two of the attackers detonated explosives at the entrance of the international arrivals terminal after police fired at them, while the third blew himself up in the parking lot.
The official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government regulations, cited interior ministry information and said that none of the attackers managed to get past security checks at the terminals entrance.
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