Islamic State blamed for deadly Istanbul blast which killed 41

Security personnel at  the international arrivals terminal at Istanbuls Ataturk airport, where two of the three terrorists detonated their bombs. Picture: Getty
Security personnel at the international arrivals terminal at Istanbuls Ataturk airport, where two of the three terrorists detonated their bombs. Picture: Getty
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Suicide attackers armed with guns and bombs killed 41 people and wounded scores of others at Istanbul’s busy Ataturk Airport in an attack the government blamed on Islamic State extremists.

Funerals were expected for some of the victims –who included at least 23 Turkish citizens and 13 foreign nationals – as Turkish authorities declared a day of mourning.

Police were going through surveillance footage and interviewing witnesses to establish a preliminary timeline and details.

The death toll excluded the three bombers, who arrived in a taxi and eventually blew themselves up after coming under fire. There were conflicting reports about exactly where they detonated their explosives.

Earlier, an official had said none of the attackers got past security checks at the entrance, with two detonating explosives at the international arrivals terminal and the third in the parking lot.

But the HaberTurk newspaper reported that one attacker blew himself up outside the terminal, and two others opened fire near the X-ray machines.

The report said an attacker was shot at while running amid fleeing passengers, then blew himself up at the exit. The third attacker went up one level to the international departures terminal, was shot by police and detonated his explosives, according to the report.

Airport surveillance video posted on social media appeared to show one explosion, with a huge ball of fire, and passengers fleeing. Another appeared to show an attacker, felled by a gunshot from a security officer, blowing himself up seconds later.

“So, what can we think? We cannot think anything,” said Ali Batur, whose brother died. “A terror attack might happen everywhere, it happens everywhere. This terror trouble is also in our country. If God permits, we will get over this in unity and solidarity.”

As dawn broke over the destroyed terminal, workers began removing debris. An information board inside showed about one-third of scheduled flights were cancelled, and a host of others were delayed.

The hundreds of passengers who fled the airport in fear were left sitting on the grass outside. Several ambulances drove back and forth, and security vehicles surrounded the scene.

The Istanbul governor’s office said more than 230 people were wounded.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said it appeared that the Islamic State group, which has threatened Turkey repeatedly, was responsible.

“Even though the indications suggest Daesh, our investigations are continuing,” Yildirim said.

Turkey has suffered a series of terrorist attacks, and their increasing frequency has scared away many visitors and devastated the economy, which relies heavily on tourism. The country is a key partner in the US-led coalition against Islamic State.

Turkey shares long, porous borders with Syria and Iraq, where Islamic State controls large pockets of territory. Authorities have blamed it for several major bombings over the past year, including on the capital Ankara, as well as attacks on tourists in Istanbul.

The government has stepped up controls at airports and land borders and deported thousands of foreign fighters, but has struggled to tackle the extremist threat while also conducting security operations against Kurdish rebels, who have also been blamed for some recent deadly attacks.

The devastation at Istanbul’s airport follows the March attack on the Brussels airport, where two suicide bombings ripped through check-in counters, killing 16 people.