Passport

Deadly Suicide Bombings Rock Istanbul Airport, But Unclear Who to Blame

The death toll is rising in an attack on Turkey's international airport in Istanbul.

ISTANBUL, TURKEY - JUNE 28: Police blocks the entrance of the Ataturk International Airport after an explosion, in Istanbul, Turkey on June 28, 2016. Unspecified number of injured in explosion at Istanbul's Ataturk International Airport. (Photo by Veli Gurgah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - JUNE 28: Police blocks the entrance of the Ataturk International Airport after an explosion, in Istanbul, Turkey on June 28, 2016. Unspecified number of injured in explosion at Istanbul's Ataturk International Airport. (Photo by Veli Gurgah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

At least 41 people are dead and more than 100 injured after unidentified militants detonated themselves at Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul Tuesday evening.

According to initial reports, multiple bombers blew themselves up outside the airport’s international departures wing after they were shot at by Turkish police, who targeted them in an effort to thwart the attack.

The Ataturk airport is one of the largest in the world and has dramatically increased its security in recent years, but those measures weren’t enough to prevent the strike. The attack comes just three months after a group of Islamic State militants launched a similar attack in the departures wing of the Brussels Airport, killing 15 people.

The Turkish government has already blamed the strikes on unspecified terrorists, but has not yet named which group they believe is responsible. The two most likely suspects are the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) or the Islamic State, both of which have repeatedly carried out terrorist attacks in Turkey in recent years.

In January, a suicide bomber killed more than a dozen tourists in an historic area of Istanbul, prompting a sharp decline in tourism amid fears that tourists would become a regular target in the country. Turkish officials believed the Islamic State was responsible for that attack.

And earlier this month, 11 people were killed and dozens more wounded after a car bomb detonated in a popular tourist neighborhood in Istanbul. That was the fourth bombing in Istanbul in 2016.

At the time, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the Turkish government would “continue our fight against these terrorists until the end, tirelessly and fearlessly.”

In brief remarks at an event in Colorado, Secretary of State John Kerry said that deterring extremism is “daily fare.”

“Yes, you can bomb an airport. You can blow yourselves up,” he said. “We have to get it right 24-7-365. They have to get it right for only one hour … If you’re desperate and you’re willing to give your life, then you can do some harm.”

Photo credit: Veli Gurgah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Siobhán O’Grady is a freelance journalist working across sub-Saharan Africa. She previously worked as a staff writer at Foreign Policy. @siobhan_ogrady

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