Death Toll Rises in Istanbul Terror Attack

     (CN) – The death toll rose to 42, while another 239 were wounded, in a terror attack at Turkey’s Ataturk Airport that the country’s prime minister says appears to have been backed by the Islamic State group.
     The attack by three suicide bombers shortly after 10 p.m. local time Tuesday is just the latest in a series of bombings to hit the country in recent months.
     The Turkish government has declared Wednesday a national day of mourning. Amazingly, the airport has already reopened and arrivals and departures are reportedly proceeding normally.
     In a statement, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said of the dead, 23 were Turkish citizens and at least 10 were foreign nationals, including five Saudis, two Iraqis, and citizens of China, Jordan, Tunisia and Uzbekistan.
     Of those wounded, 109 have already been released from the hospital, the statement said.
     There are no indications that any U.S. citizens were among the dead or injured.
     Less than 24 hours after the attack, many details are known, but there are some conflicts in the various accounts.
      “It’s a jigsaw puzzle,” said an official who spoke to the news media on condition of anonymity, in line with government protocol.
     What is known is that the three suicide bombers arrived at the airport by taxi, and that at least two of them were armed with a Kalashnikov rifles.
     Based on witness statements and closed-circuit television footage, it appears one attacker blew himself up immediately outside the terminal. At that point, the two other attackers opened fire as they attempted to get through the area where the airport’s X-ray machines are located.
     Turkish airports have security checks at both the entrance of terminal buildings and then later before entry to departure gates.
     One of the attackers was shot as he ran through a crowd of terrified onlookers and blew himself up at the terminal exit. The other made it up one level to the international departures terminal, where he was shot by a policeman security and blew himself up seconds later while sprawled on the floor.
     Turkey is a member a NATO and has been an important partner in the U.S.-led coalition in the fight against ISIS.
     Since October 10, 2015, when suicide bombers directed by ISIS killed 102 and injured 248 at a pro-Kurdish rally in Ankara, Turkey has experienced seven other attacks, in which a total of 73 were killed. The attacks, which often targeted tourists, have hurt the Turkish economy.
     In response, Turkey has stepped up security measures at airports and land borders and deported thousands of alleged foreign fighters. But these efforts have been complicated by an ongoing clashes between the government and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, also known as the PKK, since a two-year cease-fire collapsed in July 2015.
     The PKK, which says it is fighting for autonomy for Turkey’s large ethnic Kurdish minority, is classified as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
     As dawn broke and workers continued to remove debris from the terminal, Prime Minister Yildirim told reporters at the airport that all indications including the so-called “soft target,” and the way the attack was carried out suggested the Islamic State group was behind it.
          “The findings of our security forces point at the Daesh organization as the perpetrators of this terror attack,” Yildirim said, using the Arabic name for IS. “Even though the indications suggest Daesh, our investigations are continuing.”
     ISIS has not yet claimed responsibility for the Ataturk airport attack.
     Turkey shares long, porous borders with Syria and Iraq, countries in which the Islamic State group controls large pockets of territory.
     Tuesday’s assault follows the March attack on Brussels Airport in which suicide bombers killed 16 people.
     The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for that attack, as well as a subsequent explosion at a Brussels subway station that killed 16 more people.
     Yildirim said that Tuesday’s attack “has shown once again that terrorism is a global threat.”
     The prime minister emphasized there was no security lapse at the Ataturk airport, but said the fact the attackers were carrying automatic weapons “increased the severity” of the attack.
     Some witnesses said they believed they saw at least one attacker run from the international terminal after the initial explosions.
     Asked whether a fourth attacker might have escaped, Yildirim said authorities still don’t know, but are looking at that possibility.
     Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport is the largest airport in Turkey and was the 11th busiest airport in the world last year, with 61.8 million passengers, according to Airports Council International.

     Photo caption 1:
     Passengers embrace each other as they wait outside Istanbul’s Ataturk airport, early Wednesday, June 29, 2016 following their evacuation after a blast. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

     Photo caption 2:
     Family members of victims cry outside the Forensic Medical Center in Istanbul, Wednesday, June 29, 2016. Suicide attackers killed dozens and wounded more than 140 at Istanbul’s busy Ataturk Airport late Tuesday. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

     Photo caption 3:
     Medics and security members work at the entrance of the Ataturk Airport after explosions in Istanbul, Tuesday, June 28, 2016. (IHA via AP)

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