Istanbul Airport Explosion Death Toll Went Up & Could Go Even Higher
Officials have more news to report on the Istanbul Atatürk Airport attack, and it's not good. On Tuesday evening, suicide bombers struck the Turkish capital's main international airport, leaving a chaotic scene of blood, fallen ceiling tiles, and nervous travelers fleeing the airport with their luggage — a sight that has become all too common in recent months. Initially, officials said 10 were killed, but then the number was raised to 28. Now, the Associated Press is reporting that 31 people were confirmed dead at the Istanbul airport, which would nearly match the number killed in the Brussels attacks this April.
And that number may continue to change as new information is released. Officials are still working to get a handle on the situation; details have been conflicting in the hours following the attacks. AP briefly reported that nearly 50 people were killed based on the remarks of a senior Turkish government official. They later issued a correction, but noted that the number of casualties, 31, is expected to rise perhaps as high as 50.
The Turkish state broadcaster TRT reported that 38 were killed. The number of wounded was also unclear. Officials originally said about 60 were injured, but Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ revised that number, saying 147 were wounded. They were rushed to a nearby state hospital.
Forensic police were working at the scene late into the night and could provide more answers as to what happened. The Istanbul governor Vasip Şahin told Turkish media that three gunmen were also killed on the scene. Initial reports mentioned one or two attackers, and other officials have now said as many as four were involved. Shortly before the blasts, the assailants reportedly exchanged fire with police at the security checkpoint at the entrance to the international terminal, then detonated suicide bombs. At Atatürk Airport, there are metal detectors and x-rays at the entrance to the departure hall in addition to inside the airport before departure gates.
According to The Guardian, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called the attack terrorism in a statement and called on other Western governments to take a "firm stand against terror":
The bombs that exploded in Istanbul today could have gone off at any airport in any city around the world. Make no mistake: For terrorist organizations, there is no difference between Istanbul and London, Ankara and Berlin, Izmir and Chicago or Antalya and Rome.
Erdoğan said the attack's timing during the holy month of Ramadan "shows that terrorism strikes with no regard to faith and values." He added, "Turkey has the power, determination and capacity to continue the fight against terrorism until the end." Thus far no terrorist organization has claimed responsibility for the attack. Bozdağ told the Turkish parliament earlier Tuesday that he had information regarding the group responsible but that he would not share until it was confirmed, The Guardian reported. A senior Turkish official told AP that the investigation suggests that ISIS is responsible.
As the investigation continues hundreds of travelers have been stranded at what is now Europe's third-busiest airport, after Heathrow in London and Paris' Charles de Gaulle. Departures were cancelled after the attacks, and all flights in and out of the airport are cancelled until at least 8 p.m. local time Wednesday.
Many continued to stream out of the airport hours after the attack. Some reported hiding under check-in counters during the shootings and then being ushered to a basement cafeteria, where they were kept for at least an hour before being allowed outside. Just after midnight many remained at the airport with luggage in hand. Some sat in the grass illuminated by the light of ambulances, the only vehicles that are being allowed into the area.
This is the most recent of a series of bombings in Turkey that have been blamed on both ISIS and the Kurdish separatists. Unlike with attacks carried out elsewhere, ISIS has never claimed responsibility for an attack in Turkey.