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Istanbul Airport Triple Suicide Bombing Kills 36, Leaves 147 Injured

It is the deadliest of four attacks to rock Turkey's biggest city in 2016, with two others blamed on IS and another claimed by a Kurdish terrorist group.

AFP

Updated:June 29, 2016, 10:23 AM IST
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Istanbul Airport Triple Suicide Bombing Kills 36, Leaves 147 Injured
Passengers embrace each other at the entrance to Istanbul's Ataturk airport following their evacuation after a blast (AP)

Istanbul: A triple suicide bombing and gun attack at Istanbul's Ataturk airport has killed at least 36 people, including foreigners and over 147 have been wounded. A senior government official said the death toll could climb much higher.

Turkey's Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said three suicide bombers were responsible for the attack and all initial indications suggest the Islamic State group was behind it.

Full Coverage: Turkey Terror Attack

The attackers began spraying bullets at the international terminal entrance before blowing themselves up at around 10:00 pm (12:30 AM IST) on Tuesday, Turkish authorities said.

It is the deadliest of four attacks to rock Turkey's biggest city in 2016, with two others blamed on IS and another claimed by a Kurdish terrorist group.

Though there was no immediate claim of responsibility for Tuesday's carnage, "the evidence points to Daesh," Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told journalists at the scene.

He said the dead included foreigners, but gave no further details.

Istanbul Airport Terror Attack: Live Updates

The attack prompted the suspension of all flights at the airport.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for an international "joint fight" against terror, as Western allies including the United States condemned the "heinous" attack.

Yildirim said the suicide bombers had arrived in a taxi and opened fire on passengers with automatic rifles before blowing themselves up.

Security camera footage widely circulated on social media appeared to capture two of the blasts. In one clip a huge ball of flame erupts at an entrance to the terminal building, scattering terrified passengers.

Another video shows a black-clad attacker running inside the building before collapsing to the ground -- apparently felled by a police bullet -- and blowing himself up.

Tuesday's attack follows coordinated IS suicide bombings at Brussels airport and a city metro station in March that left 32 people dead.

- 'I can't find my sister' -

An AFP photographer saw bodies covered with sheets at the terminal, which bore heavy damage from the blasts.

Bullet holes peppered the windows and shattered glass lay on the floor, while abandoned luggage was scattered everywhere.

Hundreds of police and firefighters including forensic officers were at the scene.

"Somebody came and shot at us and then my sister was running," Otfah Mohamed Abdullah said.

"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."

Police set up a security cordon around the site as a dozen ambulances rushed to the scene.

There was panic at the nearest hospital in Istanbul's Bakirkoy district, which was inundated with relatives desperate for news of loved ones.

Brussels airport, itself the scene of suicide bombings just months ago tweeted condolences, saying: "Our thoughts are with the victims of the attacks at @istanbulairport."

Security expert Abdullah Agar said Turk the attack bore the hallmarks of a jihadist attack.

"It really bears a resemblance to their methods," he said in reference to the Brussels bombings, which were claimed by IS.

The US and French consulates warned people to stay away from the area, while Turkish officials said flights would be cancelled until at least 8:00 am on Wednesday.

Istanbul, a major tourism hub that is home to some 15 million people, has suffered a series of attacks in recent months, including a bombing in the heart of the tourist district that killed a dozen German visitors and was blamed on IS.

Two months later, three Israelis and an Iranian were killed in a bombing on the city's main Istiklal shopping street, also blamed on IS.

A blast on the tarmac at Istanbul's other international airport, Sabiha Gokcen, killed a cleaner in December.

Turkey has been hit by at least five attacks blamed on IS jihadists, including a blast in Ankara in October 2015 that left over 100 dead, though the group has never formally claimed responsibility for an attack in Turkey.

Ankara has meanwhile launched a sustained offensive against the outlawed rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) following the collapse of a ceasefire last year.

Hundreds of members of the Turkish security forces have since been killed in PKK attacks.

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