By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service
ISTANBUL, TURKEY (ANS – June 28, 2016) — A suicide gun and bomb attack on Istanbul’s main airport, one of the region’s busiest, has killed at least 36 people and injured 147 more.
According to the BBC, three attackers were today (Tuesday, June 28, 2016) involved, with one reportedly firing a Kalashnikov as they targeted an entry point to Ataturk international airport.
The attackers blew themselves up after police fired at them, officials say.
Recent bombings in Turkey have been linked to either Kurdish separatists or the so-called Islamic State, also known as ISIS, group.
“This looks like a major coordinated assault,” Mark Lowen, the BBC’s Turkey correspondent, has reported.
Ataturk airport was long seen as a “vulnerable target,” Lowen added as he reported from a plane stuck on the tarmac in Istanbul.
The BBC stated that there are X-ray scanners at the entry to the terminal but security checks for cars are limited.
There has been no immediate claim of responsibility.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for a unified international fight against terrorism, saying: “Make no mistake: For terrorist organizations, there is no difference between Istanbul and London, Ankara and Berlin, Izmir and Chicago or Antalya and Rome.
“Unless all government and the entire mankind join forces in the fight against terrorism, much worse things than what we fear to imagine today will come true.”
The US condemned the “heinous” attack, saying America remained “steadfast in our support for Turkey.”
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said: “We grieve for the victims… We stand by Turkey.”
Flights in and out of the airport were suspended after the attack, and the US Federal Aviation Administration grounded all flights between the US and Istanbul.
Taxis were used to rush casualties to hospital after the attack.
Two South African tourists, Paul and Susie Roos from Cape Town, were at the airport and due to fly home at the time of the explosions.
“We came up from the arrivals to the departures, up the escalator when we heard these shots going off,” Mr. Roos told the Associated Press news agency.
Dressed in Black
“There was this guy going roaming around, he was dressed in black and he had a handgun.”
Charles Michel, the Prime Minister of Belgium whose capital city was targeted by bombers in March, tweeted from the EU summit in Brussels: “Our thoughts are with the victims of the attacks at Istanbul’s airport. We condemn these atrocious acts of violence.”
Last December, a blast on the tarmac at a different Istanbul airport, Sabiha Gokcen, killed a cleaner. That attack was claimed by a Kurdish group, the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK).
Security concerns and a Russian boycott over last year’s downing of a Russian military jet on the Turkey-Syria border have hit the Turkish tourist sector this year.
More than 61 million passengers travelled through Ataturk airport in 2015.
A US state department travel warning for Turkey, originally published in March and updated on Monday, urges US citizens to “exercise heightened vigilance and caution when visiting public access areas, especially those heavily frequented by tourists.”
Turkey is caught up in overlapping security crises
Paul Adams of BBC News said in a previous story, “Since July last year, hundreds of soldiers and civilians have been killed in terrorist attacks. Suicide bombs have torn into crowds of demonstrators and tourists. Military convoys have been targeted in the heart of the capital.
“A long-running Kurdish insurgency, once thought to be close to resolution after years of painstaking efforts to build bridges, has erupted once more.
“The country is awash with Syrian and other refugees. The government has been under pressure to stop them moving on into Europe and prevent would-be jihadis travelling the other way.”
He added, “Turkey finds itself in the midst of a hideous vortex of overlapping security crises, struggling to tackle one without exacerbating another. With each bombing, the precariousness of Turkey’s situation seems even more acute.
“Of the half dozen or more bombings over the past nine months (which followed a relatively peaceful two years), most have been blamed on IS. Over the weekend, Turkish forces were firing artillery rounds at IS positions across the Syrian border.
“A two-year-old ceasefire between the government and PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) guerrillas broke down last summer. According to the International Crisis Group, more than 340 members of Turkey’s security forces have since been killed, along with at least 300 Kurdish fighters and more than 200 civilians.
“But the fragile peace had already started to unravel six months earlier, when Kurds accused the government of President Erdogan of doing nothing to stop the IS assault on the northern Syrian town of Kobane.
“The government eventually allowed Kurdish ‘Peshmerga’ fighters from neighboring Iraq to join the fight for Kobane. Combined with American air strikes, it was enough to repel the assault.”
Photo captions: 1) Chaos at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport after today’s terror attack. (Photo provided to Epoch Times by a witness). 2) A man carries his daughter outside as people leave the airport after explosions followed by gunfire hit the Turkey’s biggest airport of Ataturk in Istanbul. (Credit: OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images). 3) Terrified passengers were seen leaving the airport on foot (Reuters). 4) Norma and Dan Wooding (Bryan Seltzer).
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 75, is an award-winning winning author, broadcaster and journalist born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, Alfred and Anne Wooding. He was raised in the UK and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for nearly 53 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren, who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of the ASSIST News Service (ANS), and the author or co-author of some 45 books, the latest of which is a novel called Mary: My Story from Bethlehem to Calvary (http://marythebook.com). Dan has a weekly radio show and two TV programs all based in Southern California. Before moving to the US, Dan was a senior reporter with two of the UK’s largest circulation newspapers and was also an interviewer for BBC Radio One in London.
** You may republish this or any of our ANS stories with attribution to the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net).