The death toll from Tuesday’s attack on this city’s main airport has risen to 41, including 13 foreign nationals, with 239 injured, the Istanbul governor’s office said Wednesday. Despite the attack, Istanbul Atatürk Airport resumed business Wednesday morning the WSJ reported. Television footage from inside the airport showed check-in lines functioning normally. Turkish Airlines, the country’s flag carrier, said its flight operations had resumed, though the airport’s arrivals and departures board showed heavy cancellations and delays.
AbduRahman Hussein, a filmmaker from Sana’a, Yemen, was about to eat at one of the terminal’s second-floor restaurants when he heard shots and explosions. “I saw the smoke,” he said in a direct message on Facebook. “Then I started running away.” He posted pictures of shattered glass and people running. The dramatic explosion was caught on tape:
And with the damage now largely accounted for, it's time to cast blame which Turkey was eager to do when Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said in televised remarks that the Islamic State is likely responsible for the killings. “Once again, it has been understood that terrorism is a global threat to all countries and nations and must be fought through mutual cooperation,” Yildirim said. “Our country has the necessary power and determination to overcome over these heinous attacks.”
Erdogan said in an e-mailed statement that the Istanbul airport attack was an effort to hurt Turkey’s image. “For the terrorist organizations, there’s no difference between Istanbul and London, Ankara and Berlin,” he said, urging all countries to join forces against terrorism.
What is odd is that the Islamic State, traditionally eager to immediately take responsibility for foreign terror operations, has kept silent: there was no immediate claim of responsibility. Both Islamist, leftist and Kurdish militants have carried out bomb attacks in Turkey in recent months, hammering the nation’s vital tourism. Tourist arrivals to Turkey fell almost 35 percent in May from a year earlier, the fastest drop in at least a decade and following a 28 percent decline in April.
Here is what is known: three suicide bombers opened fire and then blew themselves up in rapid succession at the airport around 9:20 p.m., Yildirim said from the Istanbul airport, where he assessed the damage and met with emergency personnel. The attacks left more than 200 people wounded, the governor’s office in Istanbul said by phone on Wednesday. Many of Turkey’s children ended school terms this month, which coincides with the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
The assaults took place near security checkpoints at the entrance to the airport’s arrivals hall. Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag told lawmakers in parliament earlier that at least one attacker had sprayed gunfire from a Kalashnikov automatic assault rifle. None of the assailants got past security controls, according to a Turkish official who asked not to be identified because he’s not authorized to talk to the press. He said two of them detonated their vests at the arrival hall, and a third in a nearby parking lot.
ISIS lack of confirmation aside, Turkey's insistence that the Islamic State was behind the latest terrorist act means Turkey has yet another pretext to forcibly cross the Syria border and do with the local "ISIS" forces as it sees fit. How that will affect the already tense geopolitical situation in the area, where both US and alliance forces are active as well as Russian troops and fighter jets, is unknown
Turkey is likely to step up its border security and counter-terrorism cooperation with the U.S., according to Gonul Tol, a Turkey analyst at the Middle East Institute, a Washington research center. With Turkish-backed rebels in Syria on the defensive against Syrian government forces aided by Russia, the attacks “put a spotlight on the government’s unpopular Syria policy,” he added.
“The government will do its best to control the way the media frames the attack and divert attention from the government’s Syria policy to external factors contributing to the growth of ISIS threat,” he said, using another acronym for Islamic State.
As Bloomberg adds, the attack is also the latest to target airports and the aviation industry in the Middle East and Europe, coming three months after suicide bombers struck Brussels airport. It serves as reminder of the vulnerability of airport lobbies and other public places where large numbers of people congregate, said Hans Weber, an aviation consultant in San Diego.
“The probability of copycat attacks goes way up high after one of those attacks,” said Weber, who advised the U.S. federal government on airport security issues following the Sept. 11 attacks. “From a terrorist perspective, Brussels was a success. You can see how they would be motivated to copy that.”
This means that even more terrorist attacks are now likely not only in Turkey, but also in Europe, which has been in a heightened state of terror alerts ever since last November tragic suicide bombings in Paris and this year's attacks in Brussels.