ISTANBUL, Turkey, June 28 (UPI) — The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration suspended all American flights to and from Atatürk International Airport in Turkey’s capital after a particularly bloody terrorist attack killed dozens and wounded more than a hundred others on Tuesday.
The airport was rocked by gunfire and bomb explosions in what appeared to be a coordinated militant attack, witnesses and authorities said.
Officials said at least 31 people were killed in the attack and nearly 150 were injured when the assailants opened fire and blew themselves up after being confronted by airport police.
Authorities said police started shooting at the suspects to keep them away from the secure area of the terminal when they set off their explosives. The attack happened around 10 p.m. local time.
“I was going from the domestic to the international terminal, then there was suddenly a fireball and I saw people covered in blood,” a taxi cab driver said.
Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag, who said he knew which terror group was responsible, noted that one attacker fired an AK-47 assault rifle at people near him before detonating a suicide vest.
A senior Turkish official and Istanbul governor Vasip Şahin said three suicide bombers launched the attack — two near a security checkpoint in the international terminal and one in the parking lot.
Atatürk airport, Turkey’s largest, was locked down in the aftermath of the attack as police investigated and incoming flights were diverted.
“I harshly condemn those who executed this terrorist attack, and those who gave the orders for it,” Bozdag said.
“I hope the attack at the Atatürk airport will be a turning point in the world, and primarily for the Western states, for a joint struggle against terror organizations,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated, also saying the attack “revealed the dark face of terror organizations targeting innocent civilians.”
Tuesday afternoon, the FAA issued ground stop orders on all U.S. flights to and from Atatürk, various news media reported — a routine action taken in locations that pose a specific threat to American travelers’ safety.
In March, the U.S. Department of State advised American travelers to exercise caution in Turkey due to heightened threats. The department reiterated that warning just Monday.
With a largely Muslim population, Turkey is often targeted by militant groups. In December, one person was killed in an attack on a different Istanbul airport and several more died earlier this month in a bombing carried out by Kurdish militants.
Increased militant activity is also scaring tourists away. The nation saw a substantial drop in tourists for May, officials said, which was the biggest visitor slump on record, Bloomberg reported.