ISTANBUL — Weary travelers returned to the Ataturk airport here Wednesday, hours after three suicide bombers launched a devastating terror attack that killed at least 41 people and wounded more than 230. Authorities believe the Islamic State is behind the assault.
At least one extremist opened fire with a Kalashnikov rifle before all three attackers fired on travelers and police before blowing themselves up Tuesday, media reported, citing Turkish authorities. Police estimate there were seven attackers — one has been arrested.
Turkish officials said the dead included at least 13 foreigners, three of them with dual citizenship. The foreigners include five Saudis, two Iraqis and people from China, Jordan, Tunisia, Uzbekistan, Iran and Ukraine, Reuters reported. The Palestinian ambassador to Turkey said a Palestinian woman was killed and six people from the country were injured, according to the Associated Press.
Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said the airport was reopened to flights and departures from 2:20 a.m. local time Wednesday. Thousands of travelers waited to board after most of the flights scheduled to depart Tuesday night were cancelled after the attacks.
The daughter of Siddik Turgan, a man who was killed in the airport attack, reacts as her father’s coffin is carried nearby during his funeral ceremony in Istanbul. Bulent Kilic, AFP/Getty Images
Debris still littered the international hall amid chaotic scenes as travelers tried in vain to figure out when their flights were due to depart.
“Our flight is supposed to be on time but right now, we don’t even have a gate number because the flights are just a mess,” said Brian Degitz, 28, a teacher from the U.S. He spoke an hour before he was scheduled to board a flight home with his wife Ilayda.
“There were a lot of flights cancelled so there are a lot of people who have been here all night,” Degitz added. “The mood is very morose, it’s really just kind of down. The atmosphere just doesn’t feel normal at all.”
A triple suicide bombing and gun attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport has killed scores of people, including foreigners, with Turkey’s prime minister saying early signs pointed to an assault by the Islamic State group. Newslook
Police officers at the airport became suspicious of a man wearing a jacket in the summer heat just outside the terminal and began to follow him, Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper reported.
The suspect met with two other men. The three attackers realised they were being watched and started shooting at police before one of them detonated a suicide belt, the newspaper said.
Hurriyet added that a second attacker entered the airport building and opened fire before he was shot by security officers, detonating his suicide belt after he fell to the ground, according to surveillance footage.
Police said surveillance footage showed that at least one of the attackers visited the airport Tuesday morning in order to scout the area. An operation to arrest the remaining four attackers continues.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told journalists at the scene that “the evidence points to Daesh,” another name for the Islamic State.
Leaders around the world condemned the attack.
In a public blessing at midday, Pope Francis said he was praying for the victims, their families “and the dear Turkish people.”
“May the Lord convert the hearts of the violent ones and support our efforts toward the path of peace,” he said.
“My thoughts are with the families of the victims, those injured and the people of Turkey,” said Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary-general. “There can be no justification for terrorism. NATO Allies stand in solidarity with Turkey, united in our determination to fight terrorism in all its forms.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who expressed condolences to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan by phone, says the Kremlin is lifting its ban on package tours to Turkey and he ordered ministers to begin other measures to restore relations.
Relations deteriorated last fall after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane at the Syrian border. Erdogan apologise for the incident in a letter on Monday.
Contributing: Oren Dorell in McLean, Va.