Turkey’s justice minister Bekir Bozdag said that according to preliminary information, “a terrorist at the international terminal entrance first opened fire with a Kalashnikov and then blew himself up”.
Another official said two attackers detonated explosives at the entrance of the international terminal after police fired at them.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government protocol, said he was citing information from the interior ministry. It was not immediately clear why his account of the number of attackers was different to the justice minister’s.
The official said the attackers blew themselves up before entering the X-ray security check at the airport entrance.
Turkish airports have security checks at both at the entrance of terminal buildings and then later before entry to departure gates.
Roads around the airport were sealed off for regular traffic after the attack and several ambulances could be seen driving back and forth.
The private DHA news agency said the wounded, among them police officers, were being transferred to Bakirkoy State Hospital.
Turkey has suffered several bombings in recent months linked to Kurdish or Islamic State group militants.
The bombings included two in Istanbul targeting tourists – which the authorities have blamed on the IS group.
The attacks have increased in scale and frequency, scaring off tourists and hurting the economy, which relies heavily on tourism revenues.
As part of the US-led coalition against Islamic State, Turkey allows coalition planes to fly raids on IS targets in neighbouring Iraq and Syria from its territory, and last year Turkey resumed hostilities with the PKK, Kurdish militant separatists, in earnest after a two-year cease fire broke down.The PKK, or Kurdistan Worker’s Party, has been in an armed struggle with the Turkish government for decades and is considered a terror group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport was the 11th busiest airport in the world last year, with 61.8 million passengers, according to Airports Council International. It is also one of the fastest-growing airports in the world, seeing 9.2 per cent more passengers last year than in 2014.
The largest carrier at the airport is Turkish Airlines, which operates a major hub there. Low-cost Turkish carrier Onur Air is the second-largest airline there. In December, a blast on the tarmac at a different Istanbul airport, Sabiha Gokcen, killed a cleaner.