NEW DELHI: Three suspected Islamic State bombers opened fire and then blew themselves up in Istanbul’s main airport on Tuesday. Officials say that at least 36 people have been killed and 150 injured.

The attackers opened fire near an entry point to the terminal late on Tuesday. Ataturk airport is Europe’s third busiest airport, and the attack was one of the deadliest in a series of suicide bombings in Turkey.

Although no group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, officials say that preliminary findings point toward the involvement of the Islamic State.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said: "This attack, targeting innocent people is a vile, planned terrorist act." "There is initial evidence that each of the three suicide bombers blew themselves up after opening fire," he said, adding that preliminary findings pointed to Islamic State responsibility.

The suspected involvement of the Islamic State was also echoed by two US counterterrorism officials, who -- speaking on the condition of anonymity -- told Reuters that the use of suicide bombers against "soft" targets was more typical of Islamic State than the other obvious suspect, Kurdish PKK militants, who generally attack official government targets.

The fact that Kurdish PKK militants are the other obvious suspect reveals the strains that have developed in Turkey’s polity. The attack also comes as Turkey sees an escalation in violence, as a result of a combination of factors -- tensions with Kurdish separatists, developments in Syria, and Turkey’s own track record involving the two. A two year ceasefire between Turkey and Kurdish militant group PKK broke down last summer. Further, Turkey is part of the US-led coalition that is fighting the Islamic State, making the country a clear target for the group.

Recent attacks have been claimed by both the Islamic State and by Kurdish separatists. Some recent attacks include an attack on a police vehicle in Istanbul last month that killed 11 people; an attack by Kurdish militants in Ankara that killed 36 people in March; a suicide blast in Istanbul that killed 4 in March; 28 people killed in a military convoy in Ankara in February; 12 German tourists killed in a bombing suspected to have the hand of the Islamic State in Istanbul in January; and more than a 100 people killed last year in October at a Kurdish peace rally in Ankara.

In fact, Turkey -- it can be said -- is in serious crisis. The government is at war against the Kurds in the southeast; war is raging in Syria and Iraq on the border; and Islamic State is steadily making inroads into Turkey.

The escalation in violence is a result of Turkey’s two pronged conflict -- on its border as part of the US-coalition against the Islamic State and within its borders given its long, complicated history with Kurdish groups. Whilst the engagement against the Islamic State is more recent, the government in Ankara has for decades fought a war with the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party). For two years, a ceasefire brought relative peace to the country, but this broke down last summer after a bombing killed 32 young Kurdish and left-wing activists in the south-eastern city of Suruc in July.

Ankara suspects the Islamic State’s involvement in the attack, as those targeted were traveling across the border to help rebuild the battered city of Kobane. The PKK accused Turkey of wanting IS fighters to succeed in an attempt to put a stop to Kurdish territorial gains in Syria and Iraq, and responded with a wave of counter attacks.

In fact, it was Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s enthusiasm for the overthrow of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad in 2011 that has undone so much in the path toward peace -- including the ceasefire with the PKK.

The breakdown in relations with the PKK can be traced to events prior to the attack in Suruc, with a turning point being the 28 December 2011 attack on thirty-four Kurdish smugglers on the Turkey-Iraq borderlands by the Turkish air force. The questions that followed the attack -- of why the Turkish forces fired at thirty eight men and boys and their mules -- never received a clear answer. The official inquiry published in 2013 did not clarify anything; instead, it suggested -- without evidence -- that the smugglers had other motives, and that they had been infiltrated by two commanders of the PKK – Cudi Gui and Kazim. Later, it was insinuated that target of the government’s attack was PKK commander Fehman Hüseyin. The government went as far as saying that these men were all with the smugglers -- and when the attack began, they took cover. None of these claims are backed by any evidence.

The December 2011 attack is all the more important when seen in context of the impunity accorded to it, paving the way for the current Turkish state’s violence against the Kurds. Turkish operations have virtually destroyed large parts of the country’s southeast, with cities such as Diyarbakir, Cirze and Silopi coming to resemble “war zones.”

The violence perpetrated by the Turkish state has led to counter violence, with the PKK calling off the ceasefire and a cycle of attacks and counter attacks coming to characterise Turkish polity and society.

Turkey’s war with the Islamic State fits into this, with the Kurds maintaining that Turkey, in a bid to crush Kurdish separatism, is aiding and abetting the Islamic State as as when it suits that goal. "[President] Erdogan is behind IS massacres. His aim is to stop the Kurdish advance against them," PKK leader Cemil Bayik told the BBC at the time.

When Turkey began bombing Islamic State targets within Syria in July last year, the Kurds maintained that the Turkish fighter jets were bombing their ‘guerillas’ and the civilians in South Kurdistan that essentially lies in Iraq. “Yesterday on the 24th of July, at 10:55pm Turkish jets have bombed Kurdish areas (Xakurke, Qandil, Behdinan, Zap, Gare, Basye, Amedia, and Avasin) in south Kurdistan where mostly PKK guerrillas and civilians are situated. This attacks are still continuing,” said a statement by the Kurdish National Congress at the time.

“The AKP government authorized Turkish military and air force to bomb these civilian areas, including in Xakurke and the Enze village in Qandil. Reports from local sources indicate that a number of civilians were injured during these attacks, with villages, farms and homes destroyed,” the statement read. Clearly according to this the Turkish targets were not what its government claimed to be the Islamic State, but really all those opposing the regime in Ankara.

In fact, Kurds in the region have consistently blamed Turkey for fanning IS, with Turkey being suspicious of Syria’s Kurdish militia the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and its political counterpart Democratic Unity Party (PYD) as they are the Syrian counterpart to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which has advocated Kurdish self-rule in Turkey since 1984.

The result of all of the above is a state in serious crisis, where attacks such as the airport attack on Tuesday are part of the conflict-ridden narrative.