The Istanbul Ataturk Airport was rocked by two explosions that left 41 people dead and 239 others injured Tuesday night. According to a senior Turkish official, the death toll is likely to increase up to 50, as reported by the Associated Press.
Two suspects with AK-47 rifles and suicide vests exchanged gunfire with security guards at 10pm before the armed men set off the explosives upon reaching the first security checkpoint at Turkey’s largest airport.
A third suspect detonated his suicide bombs in the airport’s parking lot, Istanbul Governor Vasip Şahin confirmed to a number of Turkish media outlets.
The assailants rode a cab to the airport, heading out at the terminal for international arrivals where they openly started shooting.
As stated by Turkey Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, the attack was performed by members of Isis, although the terrorist group has not yet claimed responsibility for the act.
"What is noteworthy is that this attack came at a time when our country is putting up a merciless fight against separatist terrorism and recording significant success," Yildirim stated during a press conference at the Ataturk airport.
Tourist Paul Roos from South Africa described seeing a gunman randomly shooting at people.
“He was just firing at anyone coming in front of him, he was wearing all black. His face was not masked. I was 50 meters away from him,” Roos described.
He also recalled how two explosions went off shortly after the assailant opened fire, and that the shooting carried on which was then followed by a final blast.
“He looked around anxiously to see if anyone was going to stop him and then went down the escalator,” Roos said. “We heard some more gunfire and then another explosion, and then it was over.”
The armed men failed to go past through the x-ray security checkpoint of the Ataturk airport, which led to their gunfire exchange with the security and the police.
A number of video clips have already gone viral, showing the terrorists as they launched their attacks on the airport.
In one of the videos, a man dressed in black appears to be carrying a Kalashnikov and runs into a hallway, before apparently being shot.
After dropping his weapon, another man, who is believed to be a security official, walks towards the gunman and appears to point his own gun at him. However, the second man shortly runs away from the assailant who detonates the suicide vest he is wearing.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has spoken out against the attacks and urged Western nations to act upon a firmer position against terrorism.
“I want everyone to understand that, to the terrorists, there is no difference between Istanbul and London, Ankara and Berline, Izmir and Chicago,” President Erdogan said in a written statement. “Unless we come together as all countries and as all people, and fight against the terrorists together, all possibilities that we can’t even dare think of right now will come true.”
The latest attack on Turkey is the third assault on Istanbul this year; it also follows on from the attack launched on Brussels airport that killed 32 individuals and injured over 300 others in March.