Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul has resumed limited operations following a terrorist gun and bomb attack yesterday (Australian time) that killed 41 people and injured about 240 others.
Three attackers began shooting outside the airport and inside the terminal late on Tuesday (Turkish time), blowing themselves up after police fired at them. Suicide bombing is a hallmark of Islamist terrorism and Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) was most likely behind the attack.
The attack closed the airport – the third busiest in continental Europe and the 11th busiest in the world – for some hours. Scheduled flights were not allowed to take off but planes in the air were allowed to land.
The attack is believed to have begun at the airport entrance when a terrorist first opened fire with a Kalashnikov assault rifle and then blew himself up. Predictably, the shooting and blasts sparked panic among passengers.
Pictures posted on social media from the site showed injured people lying on the ground inside and outside one of the terminal buildings.
Footage of the aftermath of the attacks was quickly loaded on YouTube. This clip (47 seconds in length) was shot at a respectable distance but shows the aftermath, complete with somebody wandering past looking at their smartphone.
The murderous rampage resembled a similar atrocity in March at Brussels Airport, perpetrated by terrorists pledging allegiance to ISIS. The terrorists evidently view airports as soft targets where they can massacre civilians indiscriminately. They hope the threat they pose will deter travel and tourism and thus damage the economies of their enemies.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) advised late yesterday afternoon that the airport had reopened for limited operations. It advised Australian travellers to initially contact their travel agents or airlines for information on flight disruptions. Delays continued through yesterday.
“We continue to advise Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in Turkey overall,” DFAT said. “Higher levels apply in some parts of Turkey, including Istanbul.”
Most victims of yesterday’s carnage were Turkish but 13 non-Turks were also reported to be among the casualties, from Middle Eastern countries plus Ukraine, Tunisia, Uzbekistan and China.
Security experts warned that airports were hard to defend. Counter-terrorism expert at Deakin University, Greg Barton, told ABC News that the tactic “of guns and bombs, of suicide missions and coordinated military style attacks fits the pattern of ISIS”.
More airport attacks must be expected, Barton warned. He said there was no easy solution because if you checked people before they come through an airport’s front door, it creates a queue outside which then itself becomes a soft target.
Barton said Ataturk International Airport handled over 16 million people a year.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared: “If states, as all humanity, fail to join forces and wage a joint fight against terrorist organisations, all the possibilities that we dread in our minds will come true one by one.”
Turkey has suffered six bombings this year, including two suicide attacks in tourist areas of Istanbul blamed on ISIS, and two car bombings in the capital, Ankara. Those were claimed by a Kurdish militant group.
Written by Peter Needham