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Istanbul airport terror: As many as 36 dead in suspected ISIS attack

Aleesha Matharu | Updated on: 29 June 2016, 5:21 IST

This is a breaking news story. Some information reported early may turn out to be inaccurate. We'll keep updating the story as fresh information comes in.

Suicide bombers attacked Turkey's busiest airport - Istanbul's Ataturk - on Tuesday evening, killing at least 36 people and injuring about 147 others.

At least two blasts rocked the international terminal of Istanbul Ataturk Airport at about 10 pm local time, according to a Turkish official. Police fired on two suicide bombers who blew up themselves at the entrance to terminal, the official said.

Most of the casualties are Turkish citizens, a senior government official said.

According to Al Jazeera Turk, based on a document from the Istanbul Health Directorate Crisis Centre, 106 people have definitely been injured in the attack.

The strike

Turkey's NTV television quoted Istanbul Governor Vasip Sahin as saying at least three suicide bombers carried out the attack.

According to Reuters, Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag earlier said that according to preliminary information, "a terrorist at the international terminal entrance first opened fire with a Kalashnikov and then blew himself up."

The Associated Press has tweeted an image of one of the attackers:

A chilling video shot at the airport shows people yelling "Get down!" amid what sounds like short bursts of gunfire.

Reuters also published a photo that showed a Kalashnikov rifle on the ground inside the airport terminal.

Steve Nabil, a journalist who was in transit at the airport with his wife, has given a dramatic account of events on Twitter:

The BBC's Turkey correspondent Mark Lowen pointed out some holes in security at the airport:

Ataturk Airport is one of the busiest ports in the world serving more than 60 million passengers in 2015. But at present, all outbound flights have been cancelled and most of the inbound flights have been diverted. Only planes that were already approaching the airport are being allowed to land.

A joint fight

The attack comes after a string of attacks linked to the Islamic State or to the conflict with Kurdish separatists in the country's southeast. Earlier this month, a car bomb tore through a police bus in central Istanbul during rush hour, killing 11 and injuring 36. In March, a suicide bomber blew themselves up in a busy shopping district in Istanbul, killing four. In January, more than 28 people were killed in Ankara, the Turkish capital, when a bomb exploded near a bus station in a central square.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for a "joint fight" against terror after the attack.

"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," he said in a statement.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. But one security analyst told Al Jazeera that the attack bore the hallmarks of ISIS, which carried out a "similar attack" at the Brussels airport in March.

Speculation is rife that the timing of the attack was intended to mark the two-year anniversary of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's creation of a "caliphate" - Islamist rule on all lands controlled by his fighters.

First published: 29 June 2016, 5:21 IST
Aleesha Matharu @almatharu

Born in Bihar, raised in Delhi and schooled in Dehradun, Aleesha writes on a range of subjects and worked at The Indian Express before joining Catch as a sub-editor. When not at work you can find her glued to the TV, trying to clear a backlog of shows, or reading her Kindle. Raised on a diet of rock 'n' roll, she's hit occasionally by wanderlust. After an eight-year stint at Welham Girls' School, Delhi University turned out to be an exercise in youthful rebellion before she finally trudged her way to J-school and got the best all-round student award. Now she takes each day as it comes, but isn't an eternal optimist.