Three suicide bombers have killed up to 50 people and wounded more than 100 in a ‘major, co-ordinated’ attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, opening fire with AK-47s and sparking a shoot-out with security personnel before blowing themselves up.
Eyewitnesses have told how a hero policeman wrestled a suicide bomber to the ground just seconds before he detonated his explosives at the entrance to the airport’s international arrivals terminal.
It is believed the gunmen were trying to pass through the security x-ray machines at the entrance to the airport, the third busiest in Europe, when they were stopped by security officers and carried out their lethal attack.
Reports tonight claim that ISIS is to blame for the attack, according to Turkey’s Dogan news agency citing police sources, however there has yet been no official claim of responsibility. At least one of the attackers is reported to have been a foreign national.
Turkish Airlines is the official airline partner to the Euro 2016 football tournament, being held in France.
A man carries a wounded boy away from the devastated airport tonight after the explosions, after suicide bombers launched an attack
Footage appears to show the moment the explosion was detonated in what Turkish officials have declared was a terrorist attack
Paramedics and special forces officers at the scene help the more than 100 wounded at the airport, with at least 50 people reported to have died
The ‘vast majority’ of victims in the attack were Turkish nationals but foreigners were also among the casualties, an official has said.
Earlier, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag confirmed that the airport had been attacked at 7.50pm GMT – 9.50pm local time. Following his comments the number of terrorists believed to have been involved in the attack rose to three.
‘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.
After being stopped as they tried to pass through x-ray machines, the attackers are believed to have opened fire and become locked in a shootout with security and police officers. Some of the wounded are said to be police officers involved in the melee.
Turkish airports have security checks at both at the entrance of terminal buildings and then later before entry to departure gates.
Nevertheless the airport has long been seen as a vulnerable target, according to the BBC.
While there are x-ray scanners at the entrance, security checks for cars are limited which left the airport exposed to what is being called a ‘major, co-ordinated attack’.
BBC correspondent Mark Lowen, speaking from a grounded plane on the Ataturk runway, said: ‘We are being kept on board the plane and not being allowed to disembark because of what’s happening inside the airport.