MIAMI — At least 36 people have been killed and 147 injured after a set of explosions at Istanbul Atatürk Airport.
“A terrorist at the international terminal entrance first opened fire with a Kalashnikov and then blew himself up,” Turkish Justice Minister, Bekir Bozdag said in a statement.
Gunshots and explosions were heard as three terrorists armed with bombs and automatic weapons attacked passengers at the Departures Hall of Europe’s third busiest airport.
“The terrorists came to the airport in a taxi and then carried out their attacks,” declared Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildrin.
Videos on social media show a man walking around the terminal with a gun. Security guards intercepted the terrorist, disabled him, and seconds later, the first explosion followed.
The airport was temporarily closed to incoming flights following the explosions, forcing flights to divert to other destinations, such as Ankara, according to the state airport authority. Operations were resumed on Wednesday morning.
Istanbul Atatürk is Turkey’s largest airport and a major transport hub for international travelers. It also became the third busiest airport in Europe—surpassing Frankfurt in Germany—after it scored a strong figure of 61 million passengers traveling through it in 2015. It is the main hub for Turkish Airlines.
The city of Istanbul has been target of a number of terror attacks over the past year, including suicide attacks in famous tourist areas within the city and two additional car bombings in the city of Ankara.
The White House issued a statement earlier today:
“Ataturk International Airport, like Brussels Airport which was attacked earlier this year, is a symbol of international connections and the ties that bind us together. Our deepest condolences go out to the families and loved ones of those killed, and we wish a speedy recovery to those injured. 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.”
Similarly, Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director and CEO declared, “Once again, innocent travelers have been attacked in a cowardly and murderous act. Our thoughts are with the victims, and their families and friends.”
“Air transport brings people together and facilitates both social and economic development. Istanbul has a particularly significant and historical role in connecting East and West. Last night’s attack was a broad attack on our shared humanity. But terrorism will never succeed in reversing the interconnectedness of the world. The desire of the human spirit to explore and trade will always triumph over suspicion and fear. That Istanbul airport is operating today is a testament to the resilience and determination of the Turkish people and the aviation industry. We stand together in solidarity-confident that we will emerge stronger and more united in our resolve to keep connecting our world,” said Tyler.
“The safety and security of passengers are our top priorities. This tragedy in Istanbul and the one in Brussels earlier this year show that there is a growing challenge for governments to keep people safe in the ‘landside’ parts of the airport. Moving people ‘airside’ more quickly can help to mitigate risk. The industry has a number of initiatives in place to achieve that aim and we are working with governments and airports to implement them,” said Tyler.