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Istanbul Ataturk airport attack: 36 dead and more than 140 hurt
Speaking several hours after Tuesday's attack, Mr Yildirim said at least 36 people were killed and many wounded, some seriously, with foreigners likely to be among the victims.
He said the attackers had arrived at the airport in a taxi.
Footage on social media shows one of the attackers running in the departure hall as people around him flee. He is shot by police and remains on the ground for about 20 seconds before blowing himself up. All three attackers were killed.
Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag put the number of injured at 147.
Taxis were used to rush casualties to hospital after the attack. Desperate relatives of those missing later gathered outside a local hospital where many victims were taken. Some expressed anger about the lack of information.
Flights in and out of the airport were suspended after the attack. The US Federal Aviation Administration initially grounded all services between the US and Istanbul but the stoppage was later lifted.
Flights have now resumed at the airport, but information boards showed about one-third had been cancelled, with many delays.
Paul Roos, who was due to fly home to South Africa, told Reuters he saw one of the attackers.
"He was wearing all black. His face was not masked. We ducked behind a counter but I stood up and watched him. Two explosions went off shortly after one another. By that time he had stopped shooting.
"He turned around and started coming towards us. He was holding his gun inside his jacket. 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."
Charles Michel, the Prime Minister of Belgium whose capital city was targeted by bombers in March, tweeted from the EU summit in Brussels: "Our thoughts are with the victims of the attacks at Istanbul's airport. We condemn these atrocious acts of violence."
7 June, Istanbul: Car bomb kills seven police officers and four civilians. Claimed by Kurdish militant group TAK
19 March, Istanbul: Suicide bomb kills four people in shopping street. IS blamed.
13 March, Ankara: Car bomb kills 34. Claimed by TAK.
17 February, Ankara: 29 killed in attack on military busses. Claimed by TAK
12 January, Istanbul: 11 Germans killed by Syrian bomber in tourist area
23 December, Istanbul: Bomb kills cleaner at Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen airport. Claimed by TAK
10 October, Ankara: More than 100 killed at peace rally outside railway station. Claimed by IS
20 July, Suruc, near Syrian border: 34 people killed in bombing in Kurdish town. IS blamed
More than 61 million passengers travelled through Ataturk airport in 2015.
However, security concerns and a Russian boycott over last year's downing of a Russian military jet on the Turkey-Syria border have hit the Turkish tourist sector this year.
A US state department travel warning for Turkey, originally published in March and updated on Monday, urges US citizens to "exercise heightened vigilance and caution when visiting public access areas, especially those heavily frequented by tourists."