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Attack at Istanbul Airport Leaves More Than 20 Dead

Several attackers blew themselves up at Turkey's largest airport after a confrontation with the police on Tuesday night, according to Turkish authorities and television reports.

At least 28 people were killed and 60 more were injured in the attack by three suicide bombers on the Ataturk airport in Istanbul, the governor of Istanbul, Vasip Sahin, told Turkish news media outlets.

Earlier, the justice minister, Bekir Bozdag, said that one of the attackers had fired an automatic weapon before detonating explosives.

Another Turkish government official said that the police fired shots at two suspected attackers at the entryway to the airport's international terminal, in an effort to stop them before they reached the building's security checkpoint. The two suspects then blew themselves up, the official said.

CNN Turk reported that one suicide bomber detonated explosives inside the terminal building and another outside in a parking lot.

NTV showed video of airport employees streaming out of the area of the bombing and tourists walking away, some carrying luggage and some using their cellphones. A Turkish Twitter user posted a video of what appeared to be footage of the bombing. A sharp flash of light is seen piercing the outside area in front of the airport entrance.

T24, an internet news site, showed photographs of people bending to help two victims who were lying on the pavement just outside the airport. Birgun, a Turkish newspaper, posted photographs of fallen tiles and shattered pieces of concrete near a line of cabs outside the airport.

A witness told CNN Turk that injured people were being taken away in taxis, Reuters reported.

Almost immediately, there was speculation that the attack was politically motivated, and may have been a response by the Islamic State militant group to the recent reconciliation between Turkey and Israel, which announced a wide-ranging deal this week to restore diplomatic relations. The countries had been estranged for six years, after the 2010 episode in which Israeli commandos stormed a flotilla carrying humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip in defiance of an Israeli blockade; several Turkish activists were killed in the episode.

Mustafa Akyol, a prominent Turkish columnist, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday evening, "The fact that the attack came right after the Turkish-Israeli deal might be not an accident — if ISIS is that fast in response."

Others sought to link the attack to Turkey's role in the conflict in neighboring Syria. "Unfortunately, we see the side effects of a disastrous Syria policy that has brought terrorism into the heart of Istanbul and Ankara," said Suat Kiniklioglu, a former lawmaker in Istanbul. "This is obviously intended to create an atmosphere of chaos and hit the economy and tourism."

Turkey has been rocked by a series of bombings since 2014, and they have been increasing in frequency. Officials have variously blamed Kurdish separatists or Arab militants for the attacks. On June 7, a police van was blown up by Kurdish separatists, killing 11 people, five of them civilians.

Officials have blamed the Islamic State for several recent bombings in Turkey, including in areas of Istanbul that are popular with Western tourists. The Islamic State has generally not claimed responsibility for these attacks, though it is quick to lay claim to attacks elsewhere. Analysts believe that this reflects the group's dependence on Turkey, the main route for foreign recruits to reach its territory in Syria.

"The Islamic State has never claimed credit for any attacks on civilians in Turkey, as it is an advantage to the group not to," said Veryan Khan, director of the Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium. She noted, though, that the group did claim responsibility for assassinations of opponents in southern Turkey.

Ataturk airport has expanded in recent years and is now the third busiest in Europe, ranked by the annual number of passengers, after Heathrow in London and Charles de Gaulle in Paris.

On Monday, the State Department renewed a warning it issued three months ago advising American citizens about the danger of travel to Turkey because of terrorist threats.

"Foreign and U.S. tourists have been explicitly targeted by international and indigenous terrorist organizations," the department said in the warning, which was posted on the State Department's website.

People shared images and videos from the airport online, some of which were graphic in nature.

[Source: By Ceylan Yeginsu and Sabrina Tavernise, International New York Times, Istanbul, 28Jun16]

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small logoThis document has been published on 29Jun16 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.