Death Toll In Istanbul International Airport Attack Rises To 41 | WBEZ
Skip to main content


Death Toll In Istanbul International Airport Attack Rises To 41

Previous Next

(Ozan Kose/AFP/Getty Images)

At least 41 people died in Tuesday's attack on Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul, Turkey, and at least 239 people were injured. At least 13 foreigners or dual citizens are among the dead, the Turkish government says.

The attack was carried out by three suicide bombers armed with guns and explosives, authorities say.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim says he suspects the Islamic State was behind it.

The airport reopened on Wednesday morning. NPR's Leila Fadel, who arrived Wednesday morning, described "workers cleaning up damage, passengers whizzing by shattered windows."

Reporter Delia Mortada, reporting from Istanbul for NPR, notes that Ataturk Airport is Europe's third-busiest airport, and a major international transit hub.

"The justice minister said the assailants got to the airport in a yellow cab and opened fire at the entrance security checkpoint before detonating their bombs," she reports. "The attackers targeted international arrivals gates."

Judy Favish, who is from South Africa and had a two-day layover in Istanbul, was at the airport when the attacks began.

She spoke to NPR's Morning Edition about what she saw — or rather, in the first moments, what she heard.

After the sounds of gunfire and a "very big bang," Favish says, "all I could think of was to run and hide."

"Walking out of the building, it was just horrible, because there was blood everywhere," she says. "But I am very lucky. I only lost a suitcase."

NPR's Peter Kenyon, who is based in Istanbul but currently in London, says the Ataturk International Airport has strict security protocols — significantly more stringent than those at the Brussels Airport, which was attacked in March.

"Ataturk Airport [has] two layers of security — unlike Brussels, they have a screening and check passengers at the terminal entrance before you get in, and then after you check in there's another one before you get to the gates. So anybody transiting through Ataturk Airport would be behind two security barriers and pretty far away from where this attack took place — but that's no consolation if you're one of these dozens of families with victims now.

"And the question is, where do you put the barrier? Because that becomes the target. At Tel Aviv, for instance, you get checked well before their terminal; in Baghdad, the checkpoints start miles before you get there. And it's a big problem: How do you make travelers more secure without making air travel even more frustrating than it already is? The answer seems to be more intelligence, stop the attacks — and that, of course, as we've seen, is also extremely hard."

As the Two-Way noted last night, there are a number of videos of Tuesday's attack available online:

"In an unusual occurrence, footage of the attack is being shared on Twitter, in several videos that rely on smartphone video taken of the airport's security camera monitors.

"One such video, seemingly taken from the camera above the check-in desk, shows people running from the area of the explosion. While the video doesn't include graphic images of personal injury, we'll warn you that it does depict a traumatic event at around the 17-second mark, as the blast generates a powerful fireball.

"Another video posted to Twitter suggests security personnel shot an armed attacker as he ran around a corner in the airport. That video shows people fleeing from a man who then falls to the ground. The man struggles on the ground for some 20 seconds before the scene is overtaken by a large explosion."

The U.S. Embassy, which is working to identify whether any Americans are among the victims of the attack, has posted a page to help travelers. The U.S. State Department had issued a travel warning for Turkey just a day before the attack.

Turkey has been struck by a series of deadly attacks this year — including attacks in Istanbul in January and February, attacks in both Istanbul and Ankara in March and an attack targeting police in Istanbul earlier this month.

Some of those attacks have been claimed by Kurdish militants; others have been attributed to the Islamic State.

It's very unusual for Istanbul to see four deadly attacks in six months, Delia Mortada reports.

"This is not something that happens very often in Istanbul," she said on All Things Considered. "This year has been very, very violent for this city."

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit NPR.

Get the WBEZ App

Download the best live and on-demand public radio experience. Find out more.