Three suicide bombers attacked Istanbul Ataturk Airport.
At least 41 people died and 239 others were wounded during the carnage.
Authorities have yet to identify the attackers.
After a night of carnage left 41 people dead in Istanbul Ataturk Airport, there was still little information on Wednesday about the identities of the attackers.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s attack on Turkey’s largest airport. The governor’s office said 239 others were injured in the attacks and 109 of the wounded had already been discharged from hospital.
Turkish officials said the main suspect is the Islamic State militant group, which has wreaked havoc in neighboring Syria and Iraq. The extremists have increasingly targeted Turkey in attacks in recent months. But there's little evidence yet of who directed and carried out the attack.
"It's a jigsaw puzzle," a Turkish official told Reuters. "The authorities are going through CCTV footage, witness statements."
Three attackers arrived at the crowded airport terminal by taxi on Tuesday evening. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Wednesday that the assailants were unable to breach security controls at the airport, so they returned with weapons and opened fire at random in the security check area.
"One blew himself up outside and the other two took advantage of the panic created during the shoot out and got inside and blew themselves up," Yildirim added.
Turkish authorities have conducted autopsies of the terrorists' bodies, but had not released further details, Turkey’s Dogan news agency said.
Victims From All Over World
The attack on a busy airport claimed the lives of Turkish citizens, security officials and foreign tourists.
The Istanbul governor’s office said 23 Turkish nationals, 10 foreigners and three people with dual nationality were among those killed in the attacks.
The dead include five Saudis, two Iraqis, as well as citizens of China, Jordan, Tunisia, Uzbekistan, Iran and Ukraine, officials said. HuffPost Arabi reported that three of the victims who were traveling from Saudi Arabia were of Palestinian origin.
Many world leaders offered condolences and solidarity with Turkey after the attack. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed the need for international cooperation against terrorism. He said in a statement condemning the attack that he “stands firmly by Turkey as it confronts this threat.”
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the United States remains “steadfast in our support for Turkey, our NATO Ally and partner.”
Ataturk International Airport, like Brussels Airport which was attacked earlier this year, "is a symbol of international connections and the ties that bind us together,” he said in a statement.
Turkey's national broadcaster TRT said several police officers were among the Turkish victims. A young married couple, several tourism guides, and at least one taxi driver were also among the casualties, the Guardian reported.
Paul Roos, a 77-year-old South African tourist, told Reuters he saw one of the gunmen "randomly shooting" in the departures hall, before two explosions went off.
"He was wearing all black. His face was not masked ... He turned around and started coming towards us. He was holding his gun inside his jacket,” Roos said. “He looked around anxiously to see if anyone was going to stop him and then went down the escalator ... We heard some more gunfire and then another explosion, and then it was over."
Hundreds of passengers trapped inside the airport took cover wherever they could.
Iraqi activist Steven Nabil was at the airport en route to New York City after his honeymoon when the gunmen opened fire. He and his injured wife hid in a closet in a hair salon for 45 minutes, Nabil wrote on Twitter.
“In the closet I was begging my wife to keep calm because the noise might draw any attackers around,” he added. “Looked desperately for anything sharp to protect her if they opened the door and took hostages.”
After security forces cleared the area, passengers flooded out of the terminal in shock at the carnage they had seen.
“There were blood splatters everywhere,” 37-year-old Eylul Kaya told The New York Times. “I covered my boy’s eyes and we ran out,” referring to her one-year-old son.
Survivors embraced each other outside the airport. Some held up handwritten signs, as they tried to find lost loved ones, Time reported.
Yildirim said early Wednesday that initial findings of the security services indicated the Islamic State was behind the attack. He did not provide further details, as he said investigations were ongoing.
The New York Times’ Rukmini Callimachi notes that it can take the Islamic State anywhere from several hours to a few days to issue a claim of responsibility, depending on whether it directed the attack or just inspired sympathizers.
Moreover, the group does not usually claim responsibility for attacks in Turkey unlike in other countries. This may be because the Islamic State wants to make sure it can keep recruiting militants inside Turkey, said former Turkish parliament member Aykan Erdemir, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense Democracies. Turkey is a major transit hub for the group's recruitment of foreign fighters from around the world.
A series of deadly attacks has rocked Turkey over the past year, some of which were blamed on the Islamic State. Kurdish militants claimed others.
Analysts say the attack on an airport is more characteristic of the Islamic State because it appeared to target foreigners and the tourism industry. Kurdish fighters usually attack security forces or official targets. However, a Kurdish militant group called the Freedom Falcons of Kurdistan (TAK) hit another Istanbul airport with mortar fire in December.
"This a horrible day, but certainly not surprising,” Erdemir told The WorldPost on Tuesday night. “Turkey has had a string of such attacks and often the only question is: ‘Is it (Kurdish militant group) the PKK or ISIS?’ -- which shows that people have grown accustomed to terror attacks.”
Matt Ferner contributed reporting.
CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this story mistakenly referred to Istanbul as the capital of Turkey.