• Three suicide bombers attack Istanbul Ataturk airport
• At least 36 killed and 140 wounded
• Police reportedly believe Isis is behind attack
• Officers shot at suspects in international arrivals hall
• Fourth suicide bombing in Turkey this year
• Ataturk Airport is third busiest in Europe

Turkey's prime minister says 36 people and three suicide bombers have died in the attack at Istanbul's Ataturk airport.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim says that so far all indications point to the Islamic State group being behind the attack. He says the attackers arrived at the airport in a taxi and blew themselves up after opening fire.

Asked whether a fourth attacker might have escaped, he says authorities have no such assessment but are considering every possibility.


He says the victims include some foreigners and that many of the dozens wounded have minor injuries but others are more badly hurt.

He says the attacks come as Turkey is having success in fighting terrorism and trying to normalize ties with neighbors like Russia and Israel.

It is believed the men were trying to pass through the airport's security x-ray machines at the entrance to the airport when they were stopped by security officers, and carried out their lethal attack.

Reports claim that Isis is to blame for the attack, according to Turkey's Dogan news agency citing police sources.

Turkish Airlines is the official airline partner to the Euro 2016 football tournament, being held in France.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag earlier confirmed that the airport had been attacked with twin blasts. "A terrorist at the international terminal entrance first opened fire with a Kalashnikov and then blew himself up," he said, speaking to parliament in the country's capital of Ankara.

An entrance of the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul after explosions killing at least 10 people. Photo / DHA via AP
An entrance of the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul after explosions killing at least 10 people. Photo / DHA via AP

After being stopped as they tried to pass through x-ray machines, the attackers are believed to have opened fire and became locked in a shootout with security and police officers. Some of the wounded are said to be police officers involved in the melee.

Turkish airports have security checks at both at the entrance of terminal buildings and then later before entry to departure gates. But nevertheless, the airport has long been seen as a vulnerable target, according to the BBC.

While there are x-ray scanners at the entrance security checks for cars are limited, which left the airport exposed to what is being called a "major, co-ordinated attack".

The first photographs to emerge from the airport show a scene of devastation, with debris and what appear to be ceiling tiles scattered over the taxi ranks outside the airport.

One photograph from the scene shows an AK-47 lying abandoned on the floor of the airport following the attack.

Two South African tourists, Paul and Susie Roos from Cape Town, were at the airport and due to fly home at the time of the explosions. "We came up from the arrivals to the departures, up the escalator when we heard these shots going off," Mr Roos told Associated Press.

"There was this guy going roaming around, he was dressed in black and he had a hand gun."

Police have begun evacuating the airport terminal, where terrified holidaymakers had previously been gathering to await news following the blasts.

The private DHA news agency said the wounded were being transferred to Bakirkoy State Hospital.

Ambulance crews and emergency services have descended on the stricken airport, as the number of wounded is expected to increase.

A witness told broadcaster CNN Turk that gunfire was heard from the direction of the car park at the airport, which is the largest in Turkey.

Armed men were reportedly seen running away from the terminal building after the explosions, according to Turkey's NTV channel.

All flight operation from the airport has been suspended, and passengers hoping to travel were kept inside the airport for their own safety where mobile phone footage captured scenes of terror and confusion as crowds gathered in corridors awaiting news.

Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clarke, who is running for head of the UN, offered her deepest sympathies to those affected by the attack.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs says there are currently 182 New Zealanders in Turkey.

There's no indication if any of them were at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul when the blasts happened.

The Ministry is in contact with Turkish authorities.

It's advising against all tourist and other non-essential travel to Istanbul due to the heightened threat of terrorism.

The Ministry recommends New Zealanders follow any instructions issued by the local authorities, exercise a high degree of vigilance in public places and register their details on the Safe Travel website.

Turkey has suffered several bombings in recent months linked to Kurdish or ISIS militants.

The bombings included two in Istanbul targeting tourists - which the authorities have blamed on the Islamic State group.

The attacks have increased in scale and frequency, scaring off tourists and hurting the economy, which relies heavily on tourism revenues.

The US State Department published a travel warning in March, encouraging citizens to "exercise heightened vigilance and caution when visiting public access areas, especially those heavily frequented by tourists".