Three Muslim suicide bombers have launched a ‘major, co-ordinated’ attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, spraying bullets into crowds of terrified passengers and security personnel before blowing themselves up, injuring more than 140 people and leaving a death toll expected to rise to 50.
UK Daily Mail Eyewitnesses described the moment a hero policeman shot down one of the suicide bombers before he was able to detonate his explosives, giving holidaymakers a chance to escape and saving countless lives.
In shocking footage that captured the moment, the gunman can be seen running through the international arrivals terminal before falling to the ground – apparently felled by a police bullet – and sending his AK-47 skidding across the floor.
The police officer then approaches the gunman before realising he is about to detonate his suicide vest and running for his life. Moments later, as the gunman writhes in pain on the floor, he detonates his bomb and the screen goes blank.
It is believed the gunmen arrived at the airport in a taxi and were trying to pass through the security x-ray machines at the entrance when they were stopped by security officers and carried out their lethal attack – unleashing a spray of bullets against officers.
A second video clip, widely circulated on social media, appears to capture the moment a second blast erupted at the entrance of the terminal sending out a huge ball of flame.
Two of the attackers detonated their explosives at the terminal entrance after being fired upon by police, while the third blew himself up in the car park, according to a Turkish official.
The ‘vast majority’ of victims in the attack were Turkish nationals but foreigners were also among the casualties, an official has said.
A total of 36 people have already been confirmed dead, but Turkish officials said that number is expected to rise to 50.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said all initial indications point to ISIS as having carried out the attack, however there has yet been no official claim of responsibility. At least one of the attackers is reported to have been a foreign national.
When asked whether a fourth attacker might have escaped, Mr Yildirim said authorities have no such assessment but are considering every possibility.
The victims included some foreigners, he said, adding that many of the wounded have minor injuries but others are more badly hurt.
Earlier, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag confirmed that the airport had been attacked at 7.50pm GMT – 9.50pm local time. Following his comments the number of terrorists believed to have been involved in the attack rose to three.
‘A terrorist at the international terminal entrance first opened fire with a Kalashnikov and then blew himself up,’ he said, speaking to parliament in the country’s capital of Ankara.
Turkish airports have security checks at both at the entrance of terminal buildings and then later before entry to departure gates.
Nevertheless the airport – the third busiest in Europe – has long been seen as a vulnerable target, according to the BBC.
While there are x-ray scanners at the entrance, security checks for cars are limited which left the airport exposed to what is being called a ‘major, co-ordinated attack’.