Istanbul terror attack: Three people detonated explosives that left 41 dead

Passengers embrace each other as they wait outside Istanbul's Ataturk airport. Picture: AP Photo/Emrah Gurel
Passengers embrace each other as they wait outside Istanbul's Ataturk airport. Picture: AP Photo/Emrah Gurel
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Officials in Turkey have given a timeline of how the triple suicide attack unfolded at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport, leaving 41 people dead and many more injured.

Three assailants arrived by taxi at the level of the arrivals hall terminal on Tuesday evening.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, second right, visits a wounded man at a hospital in Istanbul. Picture: Hakan Goktepe, Prime Ministry Press Office, Pool via AP.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, second right, visits a wounded man at a hospital in Istanbul. Picture: Hakan Goktepe, Prime Ministry Press Office, Pool via AP.

The first attacker entered the terminal, opened fire and then blew himself up near the X-ray machines, according to the officials, who were not named.

During the chaos, the second attacker went upstairs to the departures level and blew himself up. The third attacker waited outside during the whole episode and detonated his explosives last as people flooded out of the airport in a panic.

Travellers and airport workers described scenes of chaos as gunfire and explosions sent crowds fleeing in terror.

Airport surveillance video posted on social media shows the moment of one explosion, a ball of fire that sent terrified passengers racing for safety, while another shows an attacker felled by a gunshot from a security officer blowing himself up seconds later.

The victims included at least 23 Turkish citizens and 13 foreigners, and the Istanbul governor’s office said more than 230 people had been injured.

There had been no reports of British casualties, but the Foreign Office said it was in close contact with authorities in Istanbul.

A spokesman said: “We have offered support to the Turkish authorities and have additional staff in place in Turkey and London who stand ready to help any Britons affected by the appalling attack in Istanbul. Our sympathies are with all those affected.”

It is advising against all travel to within 10 km of the border with Syria and to the city of Diyarbakir. It is also advising against all but essential travel to some other areas, saying the threat from terrorism remains high.

IS has not yet claimed responsibility, although it did issue an infographic celebrating two years since announcing a caliphate. It claimed to have “covert units” in Turkey, among other places.

Funerals for some of the victims began as Turkish authorities continued to try to piece together how the attack happened, going through surveillance footage and interviewing witnesses.

As dawn broke over the destroyed terminal yesterday, workers began removing debris from the blast. The airport reopened in the morning, though flights were subject to cancellation and delay.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said it appeared that the IS group, also known as Daesh, which has threatened Turkey repeatedly, was responsible.

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

He also suggested the attack could be linked to steps Ankara took on Monday towards mending ties with Israel and Russia.

Calling for national unity and “global co-operation” in combating terrorism, he said: “This has shown once again that terrorism is a global threat. This is a heinous planned attack that targeted innocent people.”

US President Barack Obama pledged to dismantle “organisations of hate” after the bombing.

He said the gun and bomb attacks show how little these “vicious organisations” have to offer.

Mr Obama offered his condolences to the Turkish people, and has spoken with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed condolences for the Istanbul attack, and sought to begin a process of improving relations with Turkey.

Belgian PM Charles Michel said on Twitter: “Our thoughts are with the victims of the attacks at Istanbul’s airport. We condemn these atrocious acts of violence.”