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Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Islamic State suspected after suicide bombers kill 42 at Istanbul airport

ISTANBUL — It was an attack that echoed the carnage earlier this year at the Brussels airport, down to the taxi that carried the men to their target: Inciting panic and then taking lethal advantage, three suicide attackers unleashed a deadly tide of bullets and bombs at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, leaving 42 dead.


Authorities blamed the Islamic State for the blood bath late Tuesday, a coordinated assault on one of the world’s busiest airports and on a key NATO ally that plays a crucial role in the fight against the extremist group.



There was no immediate claim of responsibility by the militant group.



Although the attack took a heavy toll, the assailants were initially thwarted by the extensive security on the airport’s perimeter, Turkish officials said.



“When the terrorists couldn’t pass the regular security system, when they couldn’t pass the scanners, police and security controls, they returned and took their weapons out of their suitcases and opened fire at random at the security check,” Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said.



One attacker detonated his explosives downstairs at the arrivals terminal, one went upstairs and blew himself up in the departure hall, and the third waited outside for the fleeing crowd and caused the final lethal blast, two Turkish officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak about the investigation publicly. None of the attackers were Turks, a third official said.



As the chaos unfolded, terrified travelers were sent running first from one explosion and then another. Airport surveillance video showed a panicked crowd of people, some rolling suitcases behind them, stampeding down a corridor, looking fearfully over their shoulders.



Other surveillance footage posted on social media showed one explosion, a ball of fire that sent terrified passengers racing for cover. Another showed an attacker, felled by a gunshot from a security officer, blowing himself up seconds later.




Thirteen foreigners were killed, including five Saudis, two Iraqis and citizens from China, Jordan, Tunisia, Uzbekistan, Iran and Ukraine.



One attacker opened fire in the departures hall with an automatic rifle, sending passengers diving for cover and trying to flee, witnesses said. Two other explosions hit the arrivals floor below, one of them just outside the building.



Video footage showed one attacker inside the terminal being shot, apparently by a police officer, before falling to the ground as people scattered. The attacker then blew himself up about 20 seconds later.



"It's a jigsaw puzzle ... The authorities are going through CCTV footage, witness statements," a Turkish official said of the investigation.



The Dogan news agency said autopsies on the three bombers, whose torsos were ripped apart, had been completed and that they may have been foreign nationals. It did not cite its sources.



No group had claimed responsibility, more than a day after the attack, which began around 9:50 p.m. (2:50 p.m. EDT) on Tuesday.



Istanbul's position bridging Europe and Asia has made Ataturk airport, Turkey's largest, a major transit hub for passengers across the world. The Istanbul governor's office said 109 of the 239 people hospitalized had since been discharged, but the health minister said 41 were still in intensive care.



Delayed travelers were sleeping on floors at the airport, a Reuters witness said, as some passengers and airport staff cried and hugged each other. Police in kevlar vests with automatic weapons prowled the kerbside as a handful of travelers and Turkish Airlines crew trickled in.



The national carrier said it had canceled 340 flights although its departures resumed after 8:00 a.m.



The attack bore similarities to a suicide bombing by Islamic State militants at Brussels airport in March that killed 16 people. A coordinated attack also targeted a rush-hour metro train, killing a further 16 people in the Belgian capital.



Islamic State militants also claimed responsibility for gun and bomb attacks that killed 129 people in Paris last November.



"In Istanbul they used a combination of the methods employed in Paris and Brussels. They planned a murder that would maximize fear and loss of life," said Suleyman Ozeren, a terrorism expert at the Ankara-based Global Policy and Strategy Institute.



Turkey needs to work harder on "preventative intelligence" to stop militants being radicalized in the first place, he said.



The European airports association ACI Europe said airport security had been stepped up across the continent after the Brussels attacks, but said many of the fatalities in Istanbul came as people queued for security checks at the entrance.



"We must face the reality that when dealing with a terror threat based on suicide bombing, no security measures can ensure 100 percent protection," it said.



The two U.S. officials said the Istanbul bombing was more typical of Islamic State than of Kurdish militant groups which have also carried out recent attacks in Turkey, but usually strike at official government targets.



Yildirim said it was significant that the attack took place when Turkey was having successes in fighting terrorist groups and mending ties with some of its international partners.



Turkey announced the restoration of diplomatic ties with Israel on Monday after a six-year rupture and has been trying to restore relations with Russia, a major backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.



"While some see it as a possible knee-jerk reaction to the rapprochement with Israel and Russia, given the preparation involved I think it is part of a general response to Turkey's intensification of security measures along the Turkey-Syria border," said Ege Seckin, political analyst at IHS Country Risk in London.



(Additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt, Can Sezer, Humeyra Pamuk and David Dolan in Istanbul, Ercan Gurses in Ankara, John Walcott, Ismail Kushkush and Jonathan Landay in Washington, Roberta Rampton and Jeff Mason in Ottawa, Pavel Polityuk in Kiev, Bozorgmehr Sharafedin and Sami Aboudi in Dubai, Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Philippa Fletcher, Warren Strobel and Bill Rigby)

Istanbul Ataturk Airport attack: Recap after three suicide bombers kill at least 41

What a week. Within a span of a few days, one European country, Great Britain, voted to opt out of the European Union. Days later another, Turkey, which has been clamoring to join the European Union for decades, was jolted after suffering one of the worst terrorist attacks in its recent history.

Some commentators noted that the attacks in Istanbul's Ataturk airport were a sign of Turkey's slipping back into the cauldron of chaos emblematic of its wider Middle Eastern neighborhood. I would disagree. Instead the attacks symbolize Turkey's and especially Istanbul's embrace of cosmopolitan and multicultural values and economic dynamism (despite its fitful backsliding on human rights).

Anybody who's been to Ataturk Airport will be wowed by the in-your-face internationalism of the place. The place feels like the crossroads of the world. Even the victims of the attack confirm its multiculturalism: Saudi, Iraqi, Chinese, Iranian, Ukrainian, among other nationalities. That makes it an attractive hub but also an attractive target, an affront to a certain set of values.

For a number of international organizations, Istanbul was as a popular destination to give their meetings a multicultural yet non-Western sheen. Yet these organizations have fled to other cities, less out of a fear of terrorism than not be seen as endorsing the Turkish government's backsliding on human rights.

The nationalities of the 13 foreigners killed in the Ataturk airport attack have been revealed.

They include citizens from China, Jordan, Tunisia, Uzbekistan, Iran and Ukraine.

Meanwhile Turkish investigators have pored over video footage and witness statements following the deadly blasts, which left 41 dead and wounded 239.


Autopsies carried out on the bodies of the three suicide bombers have been completed, it’s reported.

The attackers, whose torsos had reportedly been ripped apart, may have been foreign nationals, according to Dogan news agency.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack but preliminary findings pointed to Islamic State.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said: “This attack, targeting innocent people, is a vile, planned terrorist act.

“There is initial evidence that each of the three suicide bombers blew themselves up after opening fire,” he said.

ReutersTurkey's Prime Minister Binali Yildirim speaks to the press at the Ataturk airport in Istanbul, Turkey, following a multiple suicide bombingTurkey's Prime Minister Binali Yildirim speaks to the press at the Ataturk airport in Istanbul, Turkey, following a multiple suicide bombing



The nationalities of the 13 foreigners killed in the Ataturk airport attack have been revealed.

They include citizens from China, Jordan, Tunisia, Uzbekistan, Iran and Ukraine.

Meanwhile Turkish investigators have pored over video footage and witness statements following the deadly blasts, which left 41 dead and wounded 239.

GettyA wounded girl from the Ataturk Airport suicide bomb attack is transported to the Bakirkoy Sadi Konuk HospitalA wounded girl from the Ataturk Airport suicide bomb attack is transported to the Bakirkoy Sadi Konuk Hospital
One attacker opened fire in the departures hall with an automatic rifle, sending passengers diving for cover and trying to flee, before all three blew themselves up in or around the arrivals hall a floor below, witnesses and officials said.

Video footage showed one of the attackers inside the terminal building being shot, apparently by a police officer,before falling to the ground as people scattered. The attacker then blew himself up around 20 seconds later.

“It’s a jigsaw puzzle ... The authorities are going through CCTV footage, witness statements,” a Turkish official said.

A passenger has spoken of the ‘trauma’ she experienced when her flight was diverted to Ataturk airport as suicide bombers struck last night.

Diana Eltner, 29, a Swiss psychologist, was travelling from Zurich to Vietnam but had been diverted to Istanbul after she missed a connection.

She said: “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.”

Paul Roos, 77, a South African tourist on his way home, said he saw one of the attackers “randomly shooting” in the departures hall from about 50 metres away.

He said: “He [the attacker] 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.”

What you need to know about the Turkey airport attack

The term security is one of the key words that we use more often than we would like to. Unfortunately the bombings and attacks like the one experienced at Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport scare us all. I am sure this incident will make government officials step up their physical security projects. There is already a law waiting to be voted on to arm private security guards with weapons. However, I am betting that cybersecurity will be forgotten. Last year the entire Aegean electricity grid stopped working after a cyberattack and everything in the whole region came to halt. I cannot imagine what would happen if the same happened in and around Istanbul, where most of our factories and businesses are located. 

The U.S. Department of Defense defines cybersecurity as follows: Cyberspace and its underlying infrastructure are vulnerable to a wide range of risks stemming from both physical and cyber threats and hazards. Sophisticated cyber actors and nation-states exploit vulnerabilities to steal information and money and are developing capabilities to disrupt, destroy or threaten the delivery of essential services. A range of traditional crimes are now being perpetrated through cyberspace. This includes the production and distribution of child pornography and child exploitation conspiracies, banking and financial fraud, intellectual property violations and other crimes, all of which have substantial human and economic consequences.

attackers opened fire with guns before detonating their bombs as security personnel tried to stop the assault. Two detonated their bombs at the airport's international terminal building, a third was killed in the nearby parking lot, a Turkish official told CNN. One video from the attack shows a man, apparently an attacker, running with a gun. He falls after apparently being shot by a security officer, who briefly stands over the man before running away. About 10 seconds later, an explosion goes off.

 "It was like hell," said Mine Iyidinc. "There was panic everywhere. We did not understand that it was a terrorist attack." Witnesses reported feeling shock waves from the blasts and seeing broken glass everywhere. Another video from inside the airport shows some people slipping on the floor, which was covered in blood in some places.

While the airport has plentiful security -- with checkpoints before entering the terminal building and again after passport control -- the attackers may have exploited relatively light security at the entrance to the arrivals hall, analysts say. Police have interviewed and released the taxi driver who drove the trio of attackers to the airport, according to the Anadolu news agency.
Who were the victims? Turkish authorities say 37 of the victims have been identified so far. At least 13 are foreigners, the government said. Among them: Two Iraqis, a Tunisian, a Chinese citizen, a Ukrainian, a Jordanian and a citizen of Uzbekistan, a Turkish official told CNN. Saudi Arabia said six of its citizens had died and five were still unaccounted for. The Palestian Authority's Foreign Ministry said a Palestinian was also among the dead. Three of the foreigners have dual Turkish citizenship, the official said. Of the 239 injured, 128 people were still being treated in hospitals. Families of 19 people killed in the attack have already received the remains of their loved ones. One of the victims who was killed was airport worker, Ozgul Ide, whose death was announced by her alma mater, Istanbul Arel University.