ISTANBUL - Three suspected Islamic State suicide bombers attacked the international terminal of Istanbul's Ataturk airport onTuesday, killing 43 people and wounding 239, Turkish officials said.
A senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government protocol, had said earlier the death toll was expected to rise to close to 50.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said three suicide bombers were responsible for the attack and all initial indications suggest the Islamic State group was behind it.
He said the attackers arrived at the airport in a taxi and blew themselves up after opening fire. Asked whether a fourth attacker might have escaped, he said authorities have no such assessment but are considering every possibility.
Another Turkish official said two of the attackers detonated explosives at the entrance of the international arrivals terminal after police fired at them, while the third blew himself up in the parking lot.
Turkey has known more than a few attacks in the past year, but targetting Ataturk Airport was a clear strategic choice aimed at disrupting normal life.
Turkey is doing all it can to return to normalcy, hence the first goal of its political and military leaders was to reopen the airport, and flights resumed by Wednesday morning.
One of the reasons why Turkey hastened to blame ISIS was the type of attack that was perpetrated and its location.
Turkish security, based on security camera footage, say the three terrorists approached the security check area at various entrances, opened fire and threw hand grenades, then blew themselves up near the check in lines, wreaking a lot of destruction.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that "It is clear that this attack is not aimed at achieving any result but only to create propaganda material against our country using simply the blood and pain of innocent people."
He added that he expected the world to show a "decisive stance" against terrorist groups in the wake of the attack.
Turkish airports have security checks at both the entrance of terminal buildings and then later before entry to departure gates.
Hevin Zini, 12, had just arrived from Duesseldorf, Germany, with her family and was in tears from the shock.
"There was blood on the ground," she told The Associated Press. "Everything was blown up to bits... if we had arrived two minutes earlier, it could have been us."
South African Judy Favish, who spent two days in Istanbul as a layover on her way home from Dublin, had just checked in when she heard an explosion followed by gunfire and a loud bang. She said she hid under the counter for some time.
Favish said passengers were ushered to a cafeteria at the basement level where they were kept for more than an hour before being allowed outside.
Two South African tourists, Paul and Susie Roos from Cape Town, were at the airport and due to fly home at the time of the explosions.
"We came up from the arrivals to the departures, up the escalator when we heard these shots going off," Paul Roos said. "There was this guy going roaming around, he was dressed in black and he had a hand gun."
The private DHA news agency said the wounded, among them police officers, were being transferred to Bakirkoy State Hospital.
Turkey has suffered several bombings in recent months linked to Kurdish or Islamic State group militants. The bombings include two in Istanbul targeting tourists that authorities have blamed on the Islamic State group. In one attack, three Israeli tourists were killed.
The attacks have increased in scale and frequency, scaring off tourists and hurting the economy, which relies heavily on tourism revenues.
Istanbul's Ataturk airport was the 11th busiest airport in the world last year, with 61.8 million passengers, according to Airports Council International. It is also one of the fastest-growing airports in the world, seeing 9.2 percent more passengers last year than in 2014.
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