The international terminal of Ataturk airport saw massive explosions on Tuesday as 41 people were killed and as many as 239 others were wounded after three suicide bombers, who are suspected as Islamic State operatives, detonated explosives.
The figures reported are far from final as their Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said that the toll is expected to climb further.
Reports of it being a coordinated attack are looming large. Ataturk airport has long been seen as a vulnerable target as although it has X-ray scanners at the entrance to the terminal, the security checks for cars are limited. Last year it was reported as the world’s 11th busiest airport.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has revealed that the security forces had found signs indicating that the Islamic State was responsible for the carnage. The suicide bombers first opened fire at the airport and then blew themselves up, he said.
No group, including the Islamic State, has claimed responsibility for the attack yet.
When one of the suicide bombers detonated explosives in the parking lot of the airport, the other two blew themselves up at the entrance of the international arrivals terminal, soon after a gunfight with police, according to an official.
It is also reported that none of the attackers had been able to get past security checks at the entrance to the terminal of Ataturk Airport.
Yildirim has also said that he believes that the attack was related to Turkey’s fight against Kurdish rebels as well as its move on Monday to mend ties with both Israel and Russia.
“It is meaningful that this heinous attack came at a time when we have become successful in the fight against separatist terrorism…and at a time when we started a process of normalising ties with our neighbours,” Yildirim said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the attack, which took place during Ramzan, AP reported. He said the attack “shows that terrorism strikes with no regard to faith and values”.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also condemned the attack, calling it “inhuman and horrific”.
An analysis by Frank Gardner, a BBC security correspondent, reveals that the attack is very similar to Mumbai 2008 incident. It said that the Istanbul targets were international air travellers and ground staff at an iconic location. IS is targeting Turkey because it sees its government as being un-Islamic and too close to its Western allies in Nato. IS is also feeling the pressure as the Turkish authorities move to close down its networks inside Turkey.
Turkey-backed rebels have been, for a while now, attacking the Islamic state inside Syria along with with the U.S.-backed Kurds. Hence, the attack could also be seen as retaliation by ISIS.
For a long time now, the relationship between ISIS and Turkey looked like a Cold War, with both sides avoiding fighting each other.
The attack comes in the wake of several others in Turkey in recent months. At least 28 people were killed in a suicide car bomb attack in Ankara on February 17. A convoy of military vehicles was targeted. Another suicide car bombing, believed to be orchestrated by the Kurdistan Workers Party, killed 37 people in the Turkish capital on March 13. An explosion left 11 people dead in Istanbul on June 7 after a remote-controlled device exploded in a major tourist attraction in Vezneciler district.