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Philip Hammond 'shocked' as suicide attack kills dozens at Istanbul airport

Published 29/06/2016

Turkish police block the entrance to Istanbul's Ataturk Airport after the attack (AP)
Turkish police block the entrance to Istanbul's Ataturk Airport after the attack (AP)

Turkey's prime minister has called a suicide blast at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul a "heinous planned attack" as the Foreign Office said it was "urgently seeking further information" about possible British casualties.

More than 36 people were killed and 147 wounded in the attack which saw three suspected Islamic State (IS) radicals arrive in a taxi and detonate explosives after they had opened fire.

So far it is not believed that any British nationals were caught up in the attack.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond described himself as "shocked" by the incident and said "we stand ready to help" .

Turkish prime minister Binali Yildirim said there were foreigners among the victims and called for "global co-operation" in tackling terrorism.

He said 36 people were dead as well as the three suicide bombers, but a government official said the figure could rise to nearly 50.

He branded the atrocity a "heinous planned attack that targeted innocent people" and said it appears IS was behind it.

"The findings of our security forces point at the Daesh organisation as the perpetrators of this terror attack," he said. "Even though the indications suggest Daesh, our investigations are continuing."

Prime Minister David Cameron described the terrorist attack as "hideous".

Mr Cameron, in Brussels for what is likely to be his final summit meeting with fellow EU leaders, said the UK would continue to work with the other countries after Brexit on "keeping our countries safe, keeping our people safe - and it's particularly important to say that tonight again when there has been another hideous terrorist attack in Turkey".

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are in close contact with authorities in Istanbul and urgently seeking further information following an incident at Ataturk Airport. Our staff in Istanbul and London stand ready to support any British nationals affected."

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the attack, which took place during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, "shows that terrorism strikes with no regard to faith and values".

Calling on the international community to take a firm stand against terrorism, he said: "Turkey has the power, determination and capacity to continue the fight against terrorism until the end."

Will Carter, who was inside the terminal, said he heard explosions. S peaking to Radio 5 Live he said: "I saw a fireball and some of the ceiling came down - just before there was panic and people running."

BBC correspondent Mark Lowen was on a plane on the runway after landing at the airport and said he was held on the tarmac for around four hours before being allowed off the aircraft and into the terminal.

Reporting from the scene he said: "You can see how chaotic the situation is here. Huge crowds of people are trying to get into the terminal building."

A British man who entered the airport moments after the explosion said it was "like something out of a disaster movie".

Laurence Cameron told Good Morning Britain: "It was just a sea of people, screaming, running towards me. I initially thought it was a hoax or something. It became apparent quite quickly that something was wrong.

"All the passport desks had been abandoned, police were everywhere, guns drawn... it was chaos."

Flights in and out of the airport, which is one of the busiest in the world, were suspended after the attack but it has since reopened.

The Turkish Airlines website says operations have restarted and told passengers to monitor flight information.

Turkey has suffered several deadly attacks in recent months which have been blamed on Kurdish separatists or IS.

Several bombings targeted areas popular with tourists while another attack on a military barracks in Ankara killed 28 people.

The latest attack comes three months after Brussels was hit by suicide bombings at the airport and on the metro. IS claimed responsibility for the attacks on March 22, which killed 32 and wounded another 270.

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