Feargus O'Sullivan is a contributing writer to CityLab, covering Europe. His writing focuses on housing, gentrification and social change, infrastructure, urban policy, and national cultures. He has previously contributed to The Guardian, The Times, The Financial Times, and Next City, among other publications.
At least 41 people have died and 230 are injured in attacks on Ataturk Airport, according to the latest casualty counts.
At least 41 people are confirmed killed and 230 injured following a combined gun and bomb attack on Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport Tuesday night, Europe’s third busiest. A Turkish media blackout on reporting of the attack has made it difficult to confirm full details as yet, but this is what we know so far.
- The attack took place on Tuesday evening, when three men who had arrived at the airport by taxi opened fire with AK-47 rifles in Atatürk Airport’s international arrivals area.
- It’s still unclear exactly where the shootings took place, but it seems that the attackers managed to breach the first line of security that allows entry to the terminal, but had not penetrated far into the building.
- After firing on the crowd, the attackers then detonated what are believed to have been suicide vests. All three died at the scene.
Among casualties confirmed so far, 18 Turkish citizens have been named, with police officers, tourist guides, a taxi driver and airport employees listed among the dead. Five Saudis, two Iraqis, and citizens of China, Jordan, Tunisia, Uzbekistan, Iran, and Ukraine were also killed. Among the injured, some in critical condition, there are many more Turks, seven Saudi nationals, five Iranians and a Ukrainian.
This soundless video shows footage of the arrivals at the time of the attack, with people already moving away from the area before an explosion occurs.
Atatürk Havalimanı'nda çekilen görüntülerde canlı bomba saldırısı öncesi insanların ters yöne koştuğu görülüyor. pic.twitter.com/PqPMWvPNre— 140journos (@140journos) June 29, 2016
Witnesses of the attack describe horrific, chaotic scenes within the airport. Swiss Traveler Diana Eltner told Reuters:
"There were little babies crying, people shouting, broken glass and blood all over the floor. It was very crowded, there was chaos. It was traumatic."
Other witnesses interviewed by Reuters describe seeing the attackers at close quarters. Paul Roos, a 77-year-old South African tourist saw a gunman shooting randomly.
“He was wearing all black. His face was not masked ... We ducked behind a counter but I stood up and watched him. Two explosions went off shortly after one another. By that time he had stopped shooting. He turned around and started coming towards us. He was holding his gun inside his jacket. He looked around anxiously to see if anyone was going to stop him and then went down the escalator ... We heard some more gunfire and then another explosion, and then it was over."
At time of writing, no group had claimed responsibility for the attack, but Turkey’s Prime Minister Yildirim named ISIS, aka Daesh, as its likely source. If Yildirim is correct, this would be the first terrorist attack the group had carried out in Turkey, beyond assassinations of Syrian opponents who had fled there. It comes, nonetheless, during a period which has seen intense terrorist activity in Turkey, linked to the ongoing battles between the Turkish state and Kurdish separatists in the country’s East. The airport attack is the 11th major incident to occur in the country since June 2015, the deadliest of which was a twin suicide bombing by Kurdish militants of a peace rally in the Turkish capital of Ankara that left 103 dead. So far, this exceptionally turbulent period in Turkey has seen 306 people die at the hands of terrorist bombs and bullets.
Addressing the media Tuesday, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that the attacks should mark a rallying point in the fight against global terror. "The bombs that exploded in Istanbul today could have gone off at any airport in any city around the world," he said. U.S. State Department spokesperson Mark Toner condemned the “heinous” assault as “only the latest in a series of attacks aimed at killing and maiming innocent civilians,” while presidential candidates Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump also issued statements of condemnation.
This morning, Ataturk Airport was already open for business once more. Cleaners have removed glass and debris, and planes are once more taking off and landing, though many flights have nonetheless been delayed or cancelled. The U.S. State Department’s ongoing travel advice regarding Turkey, which advises vigilance, avoiding political rallies and protests and any travel to Southeastern Turkey, has not been altered since the airport attacks.
The assault could nonetheless have some long-term implications for Ataturk’s role as a global hub. Along with the astronomical rise of Turkish Airlines as a global carrier, the airport’s huge traffic volume has been a key marker of Turkey’s growing soft power. That power is by no means gone, but it has taken a knock.