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Turkey PM: ISIL prime suspect in Ataturk Airport attack

Binali Yildirim says suicide bombers who killed at least 36 at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport likely linked to ISIL.

At least 36 people have been killed in attacks at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, which the Turkish prime minister said was likely carried out by the Islamic State of Iraq of the Levant (ISIL, or ISIS) group.

Binali Yildirim said three suicide bombers were involved in the attack late on Tuesday evening.

“According to the most recent information, 36 people have lost their lives,” Yildirim told journalists at the scene. “The findings of our security forces point at the Daesh organisation as the perpetrators of this terror attack,” he said, using the Arabic acronym for ISIL.

The prime minister added that there were “many injured”. Other officials gave numbers ranging from 60 to nearly 150. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack and Yildirim said efforts to identify the attackers, who arrived to the airport in two taxis, were continuing.

The attackers opened fire at airport guards at the terminal entrance, and a shootout erupted before they blew themselves up one by one at around 10pm (19:00 GMT), authorities said. Security camera footage circulated on social media appeared to capture two of the blasts. In one clip, a huge ball of flame erupts at an entrance to the terminal building, scattering terrified passengers.

Another video shows a black-clad attacker running inside the building before collapsing to the ground – apparently felled by a police bullet – and blowing himself up. Most of the casualties were Turkish citizens, a senior government official said.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for a “joint fight” against terror after the attack.

“If states, as all humanity, fail to join forces and wage a joint fight against terrorist organisations, all the possibilities that we dread in our minds will come true one by one,” he said in a statement.

“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.” One of the attackers “randomly opened fire” as he walked through the terminal building, shortly before three explosions, a witness told Reuters.

“We came right to international departures and saw the man randomly shooting. He was just firing at anyone coming in front of him. He was wearing all black. His face was not masked. I was 50 metres away from him,” said Paul Roos, 77, a South African tourist on his way back to Cape Town with his wife.

“We ducked behind a counter but I stood up and watched him. Two explosions went off shortly after one another. By that time he had stopped shooting,” Roos said.

“He turned around and started coming towards us. He was holding his gun inside his jacket. He looked around anxiously to see if anyone was going to stop him and then went down the escalator … We heard some more gunfire and then another explosion, and then it was over.”

Ataturk Airport is one of the busiest ports in the world, serving more than 60 million passengers in 2015.

There has been a string of bombings around Turkey over the past year, some of them blamed on ISIL, others claimed by Kurdish groups.

Earlier in June, at least 11 people were killed in central Istanbul following a bombing attack targeting a police vehicle.

The armed group Kurdistan Freedom Hawks, also known by its Kurdish-language acronym TAK, claimed responsibility for that attack. (Al Jazeera)

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