At least 36 people were confirmed dead and more than 140 were wounded Tuesday night in the wake of a suicide bombing at the third largest airport in Europe, Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport.
A number of police were among the injured and the dead.
Security personnel opened fire as armed attackers detonated explosive vests and shot AK-47 Kalashnikov assault rifles at the airport shortly after 10 pm Tuesday night.
Turkish officials met with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the presidential palace late into the night to discuss the developments in the attack.
According to Turkey’s Fox News affiliate NTV, three suicide bombers who attacked the departure hall at the international terminal.
Turkish officials who asked for anonymity told reporters the suicide bombers approached security before going through the x-ray for luggage. The bombers opened fire, triggering a shootout with airport police, then detonated the explosive vests they were wearing as they entered the control point in the airport’s security system.
The “control point” is located at a site at the front of the terminal near the entrance to the building where passengers encounter their first security check, before being allowed to proceed into the terminal.
Ataturk Airport was shut down, with incoming and outgoing flights rerouted to a second airport that operates out of Istanbul, Sabiha Gokcen. There was a terror attack on the tarmac at that airport last December as well.
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At least 61.3 million passengers passed through Ataturk Airport in 2015; it is the third largest airport in Europe, and the 11th largest airport in the world.
More than 200 people have been killed in terror attacks in Turkey since January of last year.
Taxi cabs were pressed into service to ferry the injured to hospitals in Istanbul. More than 112 ambulances were used to rush victims to the hospitals, according to Turkish media.
But despite the dozens of dead and wounded, authorities told news media there had been “no security breakdown” at the airport. All roads leading to the airport were closed, and civilian traffic to the airport has been blocked.
Security personnel had, in fact, acted to neutralize the threat as they were meant to do and contained the threat at the entrance to the building, successfully blocking the terrorists from accessing the terminal.
One heroic police officer reportedly jumped on one of the suicide bombers when he saw him detonate his explosives vest, thus absorbing much of the blast with his own body.
Hana Levi Julian