Airport attack another blow to Turkey’s fragile tourism industry

Islamist and Kurdish militants have claimed responsibility for several bomb attacks

Amateur videos show scenes of panic after a suicide bomb attack in Istanbul's main international airport in Turkey. Video: Reuters

 

The attack on Ataturk airport in Istanbul airport is another setback for Turkey’s already fragile tourism industry.

Last month saw the biggest slump in visitor numbers on record.

Islamist and Kurdish militants have claimed responsibility for several recent bomb attacks in Turkey, including in Istanbul and the capital Ankara. The country has been hit by spillover from the civil war in neighbouring Syria, where Islamic State controls territory along the Turkish border. The army is also fighting an escalating war with separatist Kurdish rebels.

Ataturk airport was closed to incoming flights after last night’s explosions, with some planes diverted to other destinations.

The attack is “yet another reminder, as if any was needed, that Turkey faces the perfect storm of terrorist threats,” Anthony Skinner, a director with UK-based forecasting company Verisk Maplecroft, told Bloomberg.

Ataturk is Turkey’s largest airport and a major transport hub for international travellers. Pictures posted on social media from the site showed wounded people lying on the ground inside and outside one of the terminal buildings.

Describing last night’s attack, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said “a terrorist first opened fire with a Kalashnikov and then blew themselves up” at the entrance to the international terminal.

Another Turkish official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said police fired shots at the suspects at the international terminal’s entry in an attempt to neutralize them.

A witness told Reuters security officials prevented his taxi and other cars from entering the airport at around 9:50 pm local time. Drivers leaving the terminal shouted “Don’t enter! A bomb exploded!” from their windows to incoming traffic, he said.

Authorities halted the takeoff of scheduled flights from the airport and passengers were transferred to hotels, a Turkish Airlines official said.

A spokesman for the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) said last night that travellers to Istanbul should follow the advice of the local authorities”, pointing out that the British Foreign Office currently advises that British tourists visiting Turkey should avoid demonstrations or large gatherings and remain vigilant.

Bloomberg/Reuters