Istanbul airport reopens after deadly attack

  • 30/06/2016
Armed policemen patrolled as tourists arrived at Istanbul's Ataturk international airport after the bombings (AAP)
Armed policemen patrolled as tourists arrived at Istanbul's Ataturk international airport after the bombings (AAP)

Walking through Istanbul airport to their planes hours after suicide bombers killed 41 people with gunfire and explosives, travellers could almost trace the steps of the attackers from the bullet holes and twisted metal still in full view.

Workers replaced ceiling panels, clean-up crews swept up debris, and water trucks washed pavements outside, but blood stains and shattered windows were still visible as the departure halls filled again and armed police roamed in kevlar vests.

Turkish Airlines resumed services in and out of Europe's third-busiest airport within 12 hours of Tuesday night's attacks, although many flights were rescheduled and it offered refunds to passengers booked via Istanbul for the next five days if they no longer wanted to travel.

It was a contrast to the aftermath of suicide bombings at Brussels Airport which killed 16 people in March.

There it took 12 days to reopen the airport, much more heavily damaged, to a thin stream of passenger flights.

"That Istanbul airport is operating today is a testament to the resilience and determination of the Turkish people and the aviation industry," Tony Tyler, head of the International Air Transport Association, said in a statement.

Tuesday's attack was the deadliest of five bombings in Turkey's biggest city this year, two of them blamed on Islamic State and striking tourist districts.

The other three were claimed by Kurdish militants who have stepped up a three-decade insurgency in recent months.

Turkish investigators are poring over video footage and witness statements after three suspected Islamic State suicide bombers opened fire and blew themselves up in Istanbul's main airport, killing 41 people and wounding 239.

Istanbul airport reopens after deadly attack

Among the dead were 23 Turks and 13 foreign nationals. The foreign nationals include five from Saudi Arabia; two Iraqis; and one each from Tunisia, Uzbekistan, China, Iran, Ukraine and Jordan.

The attack on Europe's third-busiest airport was one of the deadliest in a series of suicide bombings in recent months in Turkey, part of the US-led coalition against IS and struggling to contain spillover from neighbouring Syria's war.

Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan said the attack should serve as a turning point in the global fight against terrorism, which he said had "no regard for faith or values".

Murat, a tour operator who hung a Turkish flag outside his shop inside the arrivals hall, said Turks' ability to put terrible events behind them was a virtue and borne of necessity after decades of fighting extremism.

"Turks are a bit fatalistic, we believe our fate is written on our foreheads," he said. "We know that we can die here or when we cross the street. The best thing we can do is clean up the mess, put things back in order, and get on with our lives."

But where some saw defiance in the swift reopening of Ataturk airport, others regretted that such attacks had become all too familiar not only in Turkey but the world at large.

"The strangest thing is how quickly we put it behind us. We sweep up the mess and return to normal," said Adnan, a store worker in the airport who said he knew some of the security guards killed on Tuesday.

"That's how Turkey manages and moves on, we try to forget," he said, describing a rapid cleanup early on Wednesday morning in which the ceiling outside his shop was replaced.

Insecurity has already taken a heavy toll on Turkish tourism, with the number of foreign visitors falling by more than third in May, the biggest drop in at least 22 years.

Shares in Turkish Airlines were down around 1.5 percent on Wednesday on fears that the transit passenger market, which has hedged it to some degree against the fall in visitor arrivals, might also be hit by the bombing of its main hub.

US President Barack Obama spoke by telephone on Wednesday with Mr Erdogan about the suicide bombing, the White House said.

Mr Obama expressed his condolences, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters during a briefing.

The White House will offer "any support that the Turks can benefit from as they conduct this investigation and take steps to further strengthen the security situation in their country," Earnest said.