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Suicide bombers killed 36 people in a coordinated terror attack on Istanbul Ataturk Airport, Turkey’s largest airport.
After the estimated death toll fluctuated throughout Tuesday night, climbing as high as 50 at one point, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim put the number of dead at 36 and wounded at close to 150, according to multiple reports. Three bombers were also dead, he said.
NBC News did not immediately confirm those figures.
The provincial governor and witnesses told Reuters that three suspected suicide bombers, who were said to have arrived at the airport by tax, opened fire before blowing themselves up, and that police fired shots to try to stop two of the attackers before they reached a security checkpoint at the arrivals hall at Ataturk Airport.
Witnesses told NBC News that one attacker with an AK-47 had started shooting in the parking lot before blowing himself up, while another blew himself up in the international arrivals area. A third attacker was at the greeting point inside the terminal when he was noticed by police, who shouted “suicide bomber” but were unable to stop him detonating explosives.
AP reported that, when asked whether a fourth attacker might have escaped, Prime Minister Yildirim said authorities had no such assessment but were considering every possibility.
South African tourist Paul Roos told Reuters that he saw one of the attackers “randomly shooting” on the departures floor of the terminal.
“He was just firing at anyone coming in front of him. He was wearing all black. His face was not masked,” the 77-year-old said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan released a statement condemning the attack, saying that it “shows that terrorism strikes with no regard to faith and values.” The killings took place on the during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Erdogan called on the international community to take a firm stand against terrorism and vowed to keep up Turkey’s struggle against terror groups.
The White House issued a statement by Press Secretary Josh Earnest in the aftermath of the attack, in which he said the U.S. condemned in the strongest possible term the “heinous terrorist attack.”
“We remain steadfast in our support for Turkey, our NATO ally and partner, along with all of our friends and allies around the world, as we continue to confront the threat of terrorism.”
The U.S. Federal Aviation Authority lifted a grounding order it had put in place after the attack, allowing flights between the U.S. and Istanbul to resume.
Turkish airlines suspended its flights until 8:00 a..m local time on Wednesday and said it would allow passengers booked on flights to or from Ataturk airport between June 28 and July 5 to change or cancel their booking at no cost.
The hashtag #PrayForTurkey
According to express.co.uk, the hashtag #PrayForTurkey has been trending on the social media site following the horrific triple suicide bombings at Ataturk Airport.
The tribute comes after #PrayForParis and #PrayForBrussels hashtags were used in the wake of similar terror attacks on the French and Belgium capitals.
Among the social media users sharing their condolences via Twitter were noticed Pink, Enrique Iglesias, Boy George and Cher.
THE FIRST NEWS:
A witness told broadcaster CNN Turk that gunfire was heard from the carpark at the airport, Turkey’s largest. Taxis were ferrying wounded people from the airport, the witness told CNN Turk.
Separately, an official told the Associated Press it was unclear whether the explosions were caused by bombs or a suicide attack. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government protocol.
The state-run TRT television said an explosion hit a control point at the international arrival terminal of the airport.
Turkish media reported the sound of gunfire at the scene, the AP reported. Turkey has suffered several bombings in recent months linked to Kurdish or Islamic State group militants. The bombings included two in Istanbul targeting tourists — which the authorities have blamed 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. The Turkish lira weakened slightly against the dollar after the news.
At least 28 people were killed and multiple injured in twin explosions that rocked Ataturk Airport in Istanbul on Wednesday, says Turkish justice minster.