Turkey pointed the finger at Islamic State on Wednesday for a triple suicide bombing and gun attack that killed 41 people at Istanbul’s main airport, and President Tayyip Erdogan called it a turning point in the global fight against terrorism.
In the deadliest of a series of suicide bombings this year in Turkey, the attackers struck the busy airport, a symbol of Istanbul’s role as the Muslim world’s most open and cosmopolitan city, a crossroads between Europe and Asia.
Three bombers opened fire to create panic outside the airport on Tuesday night, before two of them got inside and blew themselves up. Two hundred thirty-nine people were wounded, officials said, giving a full account of the bloodshed.
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the attackers shot at random to overcome security checks at the international terminal of Ataturk airport. One blew himself up in the departures hall, a second in arrivals, and the third outside.
“Our thoughts on those responsible for the attack lean toward Islamic State,” he told a news conference in the capital Ankara, adding that investigations should be completed in the coming days and the identities of the bombers revealed.
John Brennan, head of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency in Washington, also said the attack bore the hallmarks of Islamic State “depravity”.
Turkey is part of a U.S.-led military coalition against Islamic State and home to around 3 million refugees from the five-year civil war in neighboring Syria.
Islamic State has established a self-declared caliphate on swathes of both Syria and Iraq and declared war on all non-Muslims and all Muslims who do not accept its ultra-hardline vision of Sunni Islam. It has claimed responsibility for similar bombing and gun attacks in Belgium and France in the past year.
Erdogan, whose government has taken steps this week to improve relations with Israel and Russia in part to strengthen its hand in fighting against militants, said the attack should serve as a turning point in the global battle against terrorism, which he said had “no regard for faith or values”.
U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned the attack in separate phone calls with Erdogan, his office said.
Obama, at a North American summit in Ottawa, Canada, said the United States has offered all assistance available to Turkey and pledged to work with Ankara to fight terrorism.
“We’re still learning all the facts, but we know this is part of our broader shared fight against terrorist networks,” he told a news conference.
A day after the attack, broken ceiling panels littered the kerb outside the arrivals section of the international terminal. Plates of glass had shattered, exposing the inside of the building, and electric cables dangled from the ceiling.
Cleanup crews swept up debris and armed police patrolled as flights resumed.