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Wednesday, June 29, 2016, 19:14

'IS bombers' kill dozens at Istanbul airport

By Agencies

'IS bombers' kill dozens at Istanbul airport
Passengers embrace each other at the entrance to Istanbul's Ataturk airport, June 29, 2016 following their evacuation after a blast. (AP Photo / Emrah Gurel)

ISTANBUL — Suicide attackers killed dozens and wounded more than 140 at Istanbul's busy Ataturk Airport, as Turkish officials blamed Tuesday's massacre at the international terminal on three suspected Islamic State group militants.

The Istanbul Governor's Office says 41 people have been killed in the bombing attack. The death toll included 10 foreign nationals and 3 holding dual citizenships. The attack left 239 people wounded but 109 have been discharged, according to the same source.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has condemned the attack.

"China strongly condemns this terrorist attack that targeted civilians," spokesperson Hong Lei said on Wednesday.

He said China opposes all forms of terrorism and called on the international community to strengthen coordination in anti-terror work so as to safeguard regional peace and stability.

No group has claimed responsibility for the two explosions at Ataturk Airport.

Another senior government official told The Associated Press the death toll could climb much higher. The senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government protocol, at first said close to 50 people had already died, but later said that the figure was expected to rise to close to 50.

Hundreds of frightened passengers streamed out of the airport, fleeing the latest of several bombings to strike Turkey in recent months. The attacks on a key partner in the US-led coalition against IS and a NATO member have increased in scale and frequency. They have scared off tourists and hurt the Turkish economy, which relies heavily on tourism.

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."

'IS bombers' kill dozens at Istanbul airport

Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yılmaz, speaking to reporters at the airport, said all initial indications suggested the Islamic State group was behind the attacks.

"The findings of our security forces point at the Daesh organization as the perpetrators of this terror attack," Yildirim said, using the Arabic name for IS. "Even though the indications suggest Daesh, our investigations are continuing."

Turkey shares long, porous borders with Syria and Iraq, war-torn countries where IS controls large pockets of territory. Authorities have blamed IS for several major bombings over the past year, including on the capital Ankara, as well as attacks on tourists in Istanbul.

Turkey has stepped up controls at airports and land borders and deported thousands of foreign fighters, but has struggled to tackle the threat of IS militants while also conducting vast security operations against Kurdish rebels, who have also been blamed for recent deadly attacks.

The devastation at Istanbul's airport follows the March attack on Brussels Airport, where two suicide bombings ripped through check-in counters, killing 16 people. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for that attack, as well as a subsequent explosion at a Brussels subway station that killed 16 more people.

Yildirim said air traffic at Ataturk Airport, which was suspended after the attack, had resumed to normal early Wednesday. A stoppage of flights to and from the United States and Istanbul lasted several hours but was later lifted, said a US official who spoke on background to discuss sensitive security issues.

Yildirim 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.

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