Brussels-style attack by three men on Istanbul airport that left at least 36 dead and 147 injured
Istanbul, June 29: Three suicide bombers launched a ‘major, co-ordinated’ attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport last night, spraying bullets into crowds of terrified passengers and security personnel before blowing themselves up, injuring more than 147 people and killing at least 36.
Eyewitnesses described the moment a hero policeman shot down one of the suicide bombers before he was able to detonate his explosives, giving holidaymakers a chance to escape and saving countless lives.
In shocking footage that captured the moment, the gunman can be seen running through the international arrivals terminal before falling to the ground – apparently felled by a police bullet – and sending his AK-47 skidding across the floor.
The police officer then approaches the gunman before realising he is about to detonate his suicide vest and running for his life.
Moments later, as the gunman writhes in pain on the floor, he detonates his bomb and the screen goes blank.
It is believed the gunmen arrived at the airport in a taxi and were trying to pass through the security x-ray machines at the entrance when they were stopped by security officers and carried out their lethal attack – unleashing a spray of bullets against officers.
A second video clip, widely circulated on social media, appears to capture the moment a second blast erupted at the entrance of the terminal sending out a huge ball of flame.
Two of the attackers detonated their explosives at the terminal entrance after being fired upon by police, while the third blew himself up in the car park, according to a Turkish official.
Turkish Airlines is the official airline partner to the Euro 2016 football tournament, being held in France.
The ‘vast majority’ of victims in the attack were Turkish nationals but foreigners were also among the casualties, an official has said.
A total of 36 people have already been confirmed dead, but Turkish officials said that number is expected to rise to 50.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said all initial indications point to ISIS as having carried out the attack, however there has yet been no official claim of responsibility. At least one of the attackers is reported to have been a foreign national.
When asked whether a fourth attacker might have escaped, Mr Yildirim said authorities have no such assessment but are considering every possibility.
The victims included some foreigners, he said, adding that many of the wounded have minor injuries but others are more badly hurt.
Two South African tourists, Paul and Susie Roos from Cape Town, were at the airport and due to fly home at the time of the explosions.
‘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.’
Another witness, Ali Tekin, who was at the arrivals hall when the attack took place, said: ‘There was a huge explosion, extremely loud. The roof came down. Inside the airport it is terrible, you can’t recognise it, the damage is big.’
A German woman named Duygu, who was at passport control entering Turkey, said she threw herself onto the floor when she heard the sound of the explosion. Several witnesses also reported hearing gunfire shortly before the attacks.
‘Everyone started running away. Everywhere was covered with blood and body parts. I saw bullet holes on the doors,’ she said outside the airport.
Another witness, Otfah Mohamed Abdullah, told AFP: ‘Somebody came and shot at us and then my sister was running. I don’t know which way she was running and after that I was falling down. I was on the ground till he finished… I can’t find my sister.’
Roads around the airport were sealed off for regular traffic after the attack and several ambulances could be seen driving back and forth. Hundreds of passengers were flooding out of the airport and others were sitting on the grass.
Hevin Zini, 12, had just arrived from Duesseldorf, Germany, with her family and was in tears from the shock.
‘There was blood on the ground,’ she told The Associated Press. ‘Everything was blown up to bits… if we had arrived two minutes earlier, it could have been us.’
South African Judy Favish, who spent two days in Istanbul as a layover on her way home from Dublin, had just checked in when she heard an explosion followed by gunfire and a loud bang.
She says she hid under the counter for some time.
Ms Favish says passengers were ushered to a cafeteria at the basement level where they were kept for more than an hour before being allowed outside.
‘A terrorist at the international terminal entrance first opened fire with a Kalashnikov and then blew himself up,’ he said, speaking to parliament in the country’s capital of Ankara.
Turkish airports have security checks at both at the entrance of terminal buildings and then later before entry to departure gates.
Nevertheless the airport – the third busiest in Europe – has long been seen as a vulnerable target, according to the BBC.
The first photographs to emerge from the airport showed a scene of devastation, with debris and what appear to be ceiling tiles scattered over the taxis queuing outside the airport.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged an international ‘joint fight’ against terror after the attack, the fourth deadly bombing in Istanbul this year alone.