An American journalist inside Istanbul’s main airport when three suicide bombers attacked has described the harrowing ordeal, and his attempts to protect his wife.
Steven Nabil told Good Morning America that he and his wife were traveling from Greece back home to New York City after their honeymoon when the bombers attacked Istanbul’s busy Ataturk airport Tuesday night.
He wrote a series of frantic tweets about his harrowing experience after getting to safety.
“My wife was sitting at Nero caf while I went 3rd floor to get food from sabbaro. Heard shots ran fast toward her,” Nabil tweeted. He added, “We then took cover in a closet inside a hair salon. The 45 minutes we were sitting ducks waiting to find out who will open the door.”
Three suicide attackers killed at least 41 people and injured dozens in the attack that began just before 10 p.m. local time, according to the New York Times and multiple media reports. Between 10 and 13 foreign nationals are among the dead, Turkish officials have said.
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Two gunmen fired automatic weapons at a security checkpoint outside the airport before detonating their explosives. A third set off a bomb in the parking lot.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said that early signs pointed to ISIS being behind the attack. However, the terror group has not claimed responsibility.
Nabil described to GMA the moments he realized the airport, one of the world’s busiest, was under attack.
“I went to get some food for [my wife] I was getting pizza when I heard the first bullets. I looked across and I saw the people running. And I realized it’s an attack,” he said. “My instinct kicked in. I ran as fast as I could toward that area that she was in which was the corner where the guy was shooting from.”
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He said being separated from his wife at that moment was “the worst feeling ever.” Nabil said he pushed through a crowd of people to get to his wife and saw “bullets flying.”
He was able to get to his wife and the two broke into a salon and hid in a storage room.
“That’s when we heard the third blast. I scrambled for some sort of a knife or something to protect her and she was crying. I was putting my hand on her mouth trying to keep her quiet in case [the gunman]’s roaming around and he can hear us,” Nabil told GMA.
“That’s when I found a tea kettle with hot water and I figured if [the gunman] opens the door, my last resort would be dumping the water in his face, at least give her a chance to run while I wrestle him to the ground.”
Nabil said that he and his wife were “about 30 or 40 yards” away from the first attack and said, “If there was any sort of hostage situation we would have been the first one to go because we were right there.”
Authorities are still trying to figure out the circumstances surrounding the attack and government officials said the suicide attackers, armed with guns and bombs, arrived at the airport in a taxi, the Associated Press reports.
An official told the AP that none of the attackers got past security checks at the airport and carried out the attacks at the international arrivals and the parking lot.
In the hours after the attack, hundreds of passengers were left sitting on grassy patches outside of the airport at several ambulances arrived at the scene.
Istanbul officials said 13 foreigners were among the 41 killed in the attack. More than 230 people were injured, the AP reports.