41 dead in Istanbul airport attack; airport reopens with “all services continuing”

41 dead in Istanbul airport attack; airport reopens with “all services continuing”

ISTANBUL — Suicide attackers armed with guns and bombs killed 41 people and wounded hundreds at Istanbul’s busy Ataturk Airport Tuesday night, apparently targeting Turkey’s crucial tourism industry. The government blamed the attack on Islamic State extremists but there was no immediate confirmation from the group.

The victims included at least 23 Turkish citizens and 13 foreigners. The death toll excluded the three bombers, who arrived in a taxi and eventually blew themselves up after coming under fire, according to the government. It is still unclear as to the exact location of the explosions.

The Istanbul governor’s office said more than 230 people were wounded. Hundreds of passengers who fled the airport in fear were left sitting on the grass outside Tuesday night.

As dawn broke over the destroyed terminal, workers began removing debris from the blast. The airport reopened Wednesday morning, in sharp contrast to the 12-day complete shutdown in Brussels following an airport bombing on March 22.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told reporters that air traffic has returned to normal and that “our airport has been opened to flights and departures from 02:20 (local time) on.” Turkish Airline’s website also confirmed that “flight operations have been restarted” and instructs passengers to monitor actual flight information.

A stoppage of flights to and from the United States and Istanbul Ataturk Airport lasted several hours following the attack but was lifted in the middle of the evening, said a U.S. official. The official also said 10 passenger flights were in the air, flying from Turkey to the U.S., at the time of the stoppage and they’ve all landed.

Turkey has suffered a series of attacks of increasing frequency that have scared away visitors and devastated its economy. Turkish authorities have blamed IS for several major bombings over the past year, including on the capital of Ankara, as well as attacks on tourists in Istanbul.

Turkey’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism released the following statement: “We would like to express our gratitude for whom showed their support to the Turkish public after the hateful attacks that took place on June 28, 2016 in Istanbul Ataturk Airport. We would also kindly inform the public that right after the hateful attack, all the necessary security measures have been taken by the state’s security forces and that as of today the airport is open to the air traffic and all services are continuing.”

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) also expressed outrage over last night’s attack. “Once again, innocent travellers have been attacked in a cowardly and murderous act. Our thoughts are with the victims, and their families and friends,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO. “”Air transport brings people together and facilitates both social and economic development. Istanbul has a particularly significant and historical role in connecting East and West. Last night’s attack was a broad attack on our shared humanity. But terrorism will never succeed in reversing the interconnectedness of the world. The desire of the human spirit to explore and trade will always triumph over suspicion and fear. That Istanbul airport is operating today is a testament to the resilience and determination of the Turkish people and the aviation industry.”

From the UNWTO: “On behalf of the entire international tourism community, UNWTO conveys its heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the victims and expresses its full solidarity with the people and the Government of Turkey” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai. “Today we were reminded once again that we are facing a global threat that requires a firm and coordinated response by all governments and the international community. Turkey is a leading tourism destination and we are confident it will continue to be so; it is now time to support Turkey.”

Canada has condemned the suicide bombing, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau saying on Twitter that the country “strongly condemns tonight’s deadly attack in Turkey,” adding that his “thoughts and prayers” are with the victims as “we stand with our allies against terrorism.”

A spokesperson at Global Affairs Canada said Canadian officials based in Ankara and Istanbul were closely monitoring the situation and working to determine if any Canadian citizens had been affected.

Air Canada has issued an advisory, saying on their website that “as a result of the events in Istanbul, Air Canada has implemented a policy for customers who purchased an Air Canada ticket no later than June 28, 2016 and whose itinerary includes a flight to, from or via Istanbul Airport (IST) between June 28 and July 5, 2016. If you are scheduled to travel during the affected time period, you may contact Air Canada Reservations to change your flight, free of charge, to another date between now and September 30, 2016, subject to availability in the cabin you originally purchased. Otherwise, any fare difference will apply. If you purchased your ticket with Aeroplan, or Air Canada Vacations, please contact them directly.”