The death toll in a series of suicide blasts at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport late Tuesday is expected to rise to nearly 50, according to authorities, with more than 140 injured, some of them critically.
The Turkish prime minister, Binali Yildirim, said 36 people were killed in the attack as well as at least three attackers.
Another senior government official told The Associated Press it could climb much higher. The senior official at first said close to 50 people had already died, but later said that the figure was expected to rise to close to 50.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government protocol, said as many as four terrorists may have been involved in the attack.
The majority of the fatalities in the attack were Turkish nationals but some foreigners were also among the dead, according to authorities.
Initial indications suggested the Islamic State terror group was behind airport attack, according to a senior Turkish official. No claim of responsibility has yet to be issued.
Bildirim said that according to an initial investigation, the assailants arrived at the airport by taxi. Turkish airports have security checks at both at the entrance of terminal buildings and then later before entry to departure gates. Taxis can drive up to terminals
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At least one attacker is believed to have entered the international terminal, opened fire and detonated his vest. Another suicide bomber is said to have exploded in the car park outside the terminal, with a third being seen shot by a police officer or security official right outside the area before detonating.
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Surveillance footage has surfaced showing one blast from inside the international terminal.
Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag earlier said that according to preliminary information, “a terrorist at the international terminal entrance first opened fire with a Kalashnikov and then blew himself up.”
Another official said attackers detonated explosives at the entrance of the international terminal after police fired at them.
Israeli diplomats who rushed to the hospital to which the victims were taken reported that no Israeli tourists were known to have been hurt in the attack. Earlier, in the immediate aftermath of the explosions, Israel’s Foreign Ministry said all its diplomats who were at the airport at the time of the blast were accounted for and unharmed.
Ministry officials are continuing to search for possible Israeli victims affected by the attack.
All air travel in and out of Ataturk, Turkey’s largest airport, was stopped in the aftermath of the attack. There is no immediate word on when air traffic may resume.
More than a dozen ambulances raced to the international terminal moments after the explosions, CNN-Turk reported.
The channel cited witnesses who said they saw panic among passengers. “It was very strong, everyone panicked and started running in all directions,” one witness told CNN-Turk.
Police set up a perimeter around the site, television images showed.
Footage and reports from the scene showed frightened bystanders and damage to airport facilities.
Footage emerges from inside Istanbul's main airport, where two explosions have reportedly wounded several people pic.twitter.com/pG4J58uoB4
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Turkey has suffered several bombings in recent months linked to Kurdish separatists or Islamic State jihadists. An attack on a pedestrian boardwalk in Istanbul in March left three Israelis dead — Yonathan Suher, 40, Simha Dimri, 60, and Avraham Goldman, 69 — and several more injured.
Authorities blamed that bombing and another that targeted tourists in Istanbul in April on the Islamic State group.
The attacks have increased in scale and frequency, scaring off tourists and hurting the economy, which relies heavily on tourism revenues.
Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport was the 11th busiest airport in the world last year, with 61.8 million passengers, according to Airports Council International. It is also one of the fastest-growing airports in the world, seeing 9.2 percent more passengers last year than in 2014.
The largest carrier at the airport is Turkish Airlines, which operates a major hub there. Low-cost Turkish carrier Onur Air is the second-largest airline there.