The clean-up continues at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport after assailants detonated explosives claiming at least 41 lives in a city caught up in a spate of terror attacks. Tom Stevenson reports from Istanbul.
Shards of glass still lie on the floor at the main entrance of Istanbul’s Ataturk airport, a sign of the force of the explosion that shook the international hub’s main terminal on Tuesday, the latest in a string of militant attacks in major cities.
At Ataturk airport, travellers must pass a security check, including metal detectors and body scanners, at the entrance to terminal buildings in addition to at passport control and it was there that the first explosion took place.
CCTV footage shows, however, that at least one gunmen also managed to enter the terminal with a Kalashnikov rifle and detonate an explosive vest.
The bullet holes were clearly visible next to the arrivals board when DW visited the airport Wednesday morning. Additional security guards armed with automatic weapons were patrolling the arrivals floor and shops and stalls were closed beneath the blackened area of the hall where the blast went off and dozens of ceiling panels were missing. Stranded passengers slept on chairs under airline blankets.
“Everywhere is black”
“The ceiling collapsed completely at the entrance and everywhere is black,” said Ersin Onderoglu, a pharmacist who works in a small shop inside the arrivals hall. “I have to say the men are doing a good job of cleaning everything up and getting it all working again, but it has made us all very afraid – it was right next to our shop,” he told DW.
Others employed at the airport described their fear of having to return to work.
“It’s just a mess, there is glass all over the place,” said Mehmet Gunes, one of the concierges at Ataturk airport. “I wasn’t on the night shift but this morning I was afraid to even come to work: it’s terrible what they have done here,” he told DW.
The departures floor, mostly untouched by the attack, was busier than ever as thousands of passengers queued for outgoing flights that have now resumed from the airport.
Most of the dead were Turkish nationals and local officials believe the bulk of them to have been security personnel, however 10 foreigners including Tunisians, Saudis, Iraqis, and Ukrainian nationals are among the dead. The Governor of Istanbul, Vasip Şahin, said that at present 41 are believed to have been killed and a further 239 injured in the attack.
The wounded are being treated across Istanbul, but many were taken to Bakırköy State hospital and Bakırköy Sadi Konuk hospital, close to the airport.
Turkish security sources say they believe they have apprehended one of the assailants, however no details have yet emerged about his identity or nationality.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday night Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said that although the perpetrators had not yet been identified the evidence points to a likely attack by sympathizers of the “Islamic State” (IS) group in Turkey.
Turkey has experienced a wave of mass casualty attacks in major cities over the past nine months, with a total of 10 major attacks in Istanbul, Ankara, and Bursa. Turkish sympathizers of the Islamic State group have been responsible for most of the attacks, however militants from the radical Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK) have also claimed attacks.
Firm stand against terrorism
“We urge the world, especially Western countries, to take a firm stand against terrorism. Despite paying a heavy price, Turkey has the power, determination and capacity to continue the fight against terrorism until the end,” Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a statement.
“It’s impossible to get into the heads of IS leaders, but the group certainly has the ways and means to conduct terror attacks in Turkey,” Aaron Stein, Senior Resident Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Middle East Center, and a Turkey security specialist, told DW.
Stein said that although there are serious efforts to prevent attacks in Turkey, militant groups have proven resourceful enough to carry them out, sending waves through the entire country.
“Turkish security officials are working hard to stop future attacks, but no security force is perfect. The attacks are certainly spreading fear and Turks are eager for a return to peace and security.”