Three suicide bombers attacked the international terminal of Istanbul’s Ataturk airport, killing at least 36 people and wounding close to 239 others. Several foreign nationals are said to have been killed.
The attackers arrived at the airport in a taxi and blew themselves up after opening fire, said Turkish authorities.
The death toll could climb further as several of those wounded are said to be critical.
Reports say the attackers detonated explosives at the entrance of the international arrivals terminal after the police fired at them. According to officials none of the attackers managed to get past the security checks at the terminal’s entrance.
Turkish airports have security checks at both the entrance of terminal buildings and then later before entry to departure gates.
Roads around the airport were sealed off for regular traffic after the attack and several ambulances could be seen driving back and forth. Hundreds of passengers were flooding out of the airport and others were sitting on the grass.
“There was blood on the ground,” 12-year old Hevin Zini told The Associated Press.
“Everything was blown up to bits… if we had arrived two minutes earlier, it could have been us,” she said while explaining how she had just arrived from Duesseldorf in Germany with her family.
Located just outside Turkey’s biggest city, Ataturk airport served more than 60 million passengers in 2015, making it one of the busiest in the world.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the initial indications suggested that Islamic State was behind it the bombings.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan met the prime minister and the military chief for talks after the carnage.
“If states, as all humanity, fail to join forces and wage a joint fight against terrorist organisations, all the possibilities that we dread in our minds will come true one by one,” Erdogan said in a statement.
Istanbul, a major tourism hub that is home to some 15 million people, has suffered a series of attacks in recent months. A lot of the attacks were carried out IS.
Turkey has been long accused by its Western partners of turning a blind eye to the dangers posed by IS but has in recent months it has considerably stepped up police raids on the group’s cells in the country.
(With inputs from agencies)