Istanbul rattled by violent blasts as death toll hits 41
Tuesday’s suicide bombings at Istanbul’s main airport are the latest in a string of deadly attacks in popular tourist areas in Turkey this year, a burst of violence that has dealt a heavy blow to the country’s tourism industry.
More than 40 people were killed and 147 were wounded when three suicide bombers detonated their vests Tuesday after exchanging gunfire with police at Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport, Turkish officials said. No group has claimed responsibility for the assault.
Immediately after the attack, the U.S. State Department issued a travel warning, cautioning American citizens about ‘‘increased threats from terrorist groups.’’ In March, the State Department ordered all nonessential diplomatic and military personnel to leave the U.S. consulate in the southern city of Adana and the nearby Incirlik Air Base.
A number of attacks on civilians have hit tourist areas since the Islamic State launched its first operation targeting Turkish civilians in January. Other attacks have been carried out by radical factions of the Kurdish separatist movement since relations deteriorated last year between the Turkish government and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.
By one measure, the number of foreign tourists in Turkey dropped 28 percent in April, marking its steepest decline since 1999, according to the Hurriyet Daily News. Twelve percent of the country’s GDP comes from tourism and the travel industry. Part of the decline in tourism can be attributed to Turkey’s involvement in the Syrian civil war, the influx of Middle East refugees and hostilities with Russia.
Earlier this month, 11 people were killed when a suicide bomber targeted Istanbul’s Vezneciler district, near Istanbul University and the Grand Bazaar, a popular shopping destination. A Kurdish separatist group claimed responsibility for the attack.
Thirteen others were killed in the nearby Sultanahmet district, site of the famed Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, in January in a suicide bombing carried out by the Islamic State. Most of those killed were German tourists.
In March, several other terrorist attacks shook Turkey.
On March 19, a suicide bomber with links to the Islamic State set off a bomb in front of the district governor’s office on the popular shopping avenue of Istiklal, killing four people and injuring 36. Two Israeli-American tourists, who were on a culinary tour with other Israelis, were slain in the attack.
Authorities later determined that the attacker, Mehmet Ozturk, had ties to the Islamic State.
In April, a female suicide bomber hit the western Turkish city of Bursa, injuring eight. No one claimed responsibility for the attack. It happened near the Grand Mosque, a historic landmark located in a busy part of the city.
On March 13, a car bomb killed 37 people and wounded more than 70 in the Turkish capital, Ankara. It took place in a busy square that was filled with shoppers.
Just weeks earlier, on Feb. 17, another bombing took place near the same location during evening rush hour, killing 28 people.