Death Toll Rises In Istanbul; Airport Reopens Hours After The Attack

Jun 29, 2016
Originally published on June 29, 2016 11:17 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We're in that phase in which many facts are likely to change as we learn more about an attack on the airport in Istanbul. The Associated Press, today, is quoting officials who say 41 people were killed in that attack. That is one of those facts that may well be updated as we go along. We will bring you the latest as we learn it and also get impressions from the scene, which is what we're going to do now. NPR's Leila Fadel has just arrived at the Istanbul airport that was attacked. Leila, where are you exactly, and what do you see?

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: I'm standing in the arrivals hall where the attack basically took place. And it's functioning. People are walking along with their baggage past the shattered glass. It's quite cleaned up. In front of me, I can see parts of the ceiling missing. I hear snippets of conversations that - of diplomats passing, talking about French nationals and where they are. So it's a bit of a strange sensation to watch people rolling their bags around, shopping at the duty-free and also seeing the remnants of damage and a very recent wound here.

INSKEEP: This is a remarkable difference from some other attacks. I'm thinking when the Brussels airport was attacked not long ago, it was closed for quite some time. This airport, you're saying, reopened within some hours after the attack.

FADEL: That's right. I just landed here and picked up my bag. And so many others have done the same. The explosions happened further outside where - inside the arrivals hall, it looks like, and right outside the arrivals hall. So the damage is contained to this area from what I can see. So further inside the airport, you don't see that much - that many signs of more damage, but definitely a sign that the Turkish government wants to pick up and keep going and tell people to continue to come here.

INSKEEP: So with your eyes on the scene, what can we say about how this attack took place? We're told there were three suicide bombers. Based on the information you've gathered, what did they do in what order?

FADEL: From what we understand, the prime minister did say that they arrived by taxi. They opened fire. Some reports say that started in the departure hall, but ultimately ended here in the arrivals hall, where they exploded, two reportedly inside the arrivals hall, one in the parking lot. There are some conflicting reports on where exactly. But this - it was mostly contained here in the arrivals hall. And you can see that in the damage, which is already being cleaned up in that and remarkably quickly. I'm watching people paint and bang, right now in front of me.

INSKEEP: Leila, I'm also thinking of this notion of business as usual and recalling the attacks on Paris, in which some of the places that were attacked became shrines. People came. They left flowers. They left mementos of different kinds. Is anything like that visible where you are?

FADEL: What I'm looking at right now in front of me - no, I don't see that. I see an airport that is functioning, a place that wants to continue to operate. So I'm literally looking at windows that are completely shattered, where you can see bullet scars. And in front of that are stores that are open - the jewelry shop, right now open. And you also see the Turkish flag hanging near the damage, a reminder of the sadness that happened here.

INSKEEP: Leila, what have authorities said about who they believe is responsible for this attack? And what evidence, if any, have they offered for what they say?

FADEL: Turkish prime minister is saying this appears to be an attack by the so-called Islamic State based on the evidence they say they've gathered and the hallmarks of the damage that was inflicted. So far, no group has claimed responsibility. Attacks like this in the past have been going on they have so-called Islamic State or on Kurdish separatist groups. So right now, there is no hard-and-fast claim on what happened here. But the government, right now, is saying this is ISIS.

INSKEEP: NPR's Leila Fadel at the Istanbul airport. Thanks very much.

FADEL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.