Esenboğa International Airport attack

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Esenboğa International Airport attack
Location Esenboğa International Airport, Ankara, Turkey
Coordinates 40°07′41″N 032°59′42″E / 40.12806°N 32.99500°E / 40.12806; 32.99500
Date 7 August 1982
16:00 – 19:00 (EEST)
Target Civilians
Attack type
Bombing, shooting
Deaths 9
Non-fatal injuries
Perpetrators Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia

The Esenboğa International Airport attack was an attack on Esenboğa International Airport in Ankara, Turkey, perpetrated by the "Pierre Gulumian commando" group[1] from the Armenian militant organization ASALA on August 7, 1982.[2] The attack killed nine people and injured 72 others.


Esenboğa International Airport is located 28 km (17 mi) northeast of Ankara, the capital city of Turkey. It has been operating since 1955.


The attack was carried out by Zohrab Sarkissian and Levon Ekmekjian (Ekmekdjian, Ekmekçiyan), who detonated a bomb in the middle of the crowded check-in area at Ankara's Esenboğa Airport, and then opened fire with submachine guns on passport-control officers and passengers, going through passport control for a KLM flight. The witnesses said that one of the perpetrators had kept firing at the fleeing passengers while shouting, "More than a million of us died, what does it matter if 25 of you die?"[3]

The gunmen then fled into the cafeteria, where they took 20 people hostage. Security forces rushed into the cafeteria, killing Sarkissian and wounding Ekmekjian, who was then arrested.


As result of the attack and the ensuing two-hour shootout, nine people were killed and 72 were wounded.[4] The dead included three Turkish police officers, three Turkish passengers and airport personnel, an American woman, and a West German engineer.[5]

Dead by country
Country Dead
 Turkey 7
 West Germany 1
 United States 1
Total 9


ASALA claimed responsibility for the attack in a phone call and a communique delivered to the Associated Press office in Beirut, and said that it was a protest against "the Turkish fascist occupation of our land." The ASALA statement said that the responsibility for "the innocent victims" of the Ankara airport attack was "on the shoulders of the enemies of peaceful peoples: the Turkish Government, NATO and the United States." They also warned of further attacks in various Western countries unless 85 Armenians imprisoned in those countries were freed within seven days.

When Levon Ekmekjian was told by Turkish police that the gunmen had succeeded in killing nine people and wounding 72 others, he cried out furiously, "It wasn't enough!"[6] However, during the trial by Ankara martial law command military court he said: "I came here motivated by a belief. However, after this incident, I understand how ridiculous and wrong that belief was."[7]

Ekmekjian was found guilty of carrying out armed action with the aim of separating the whole or part of the state territory and placing it under the sovereignty of another state and sentenced to death on 7 September 1982.[7]

While in prison, Ekmekjian wrote a letter, in which he expressed his remorse about killing innocent people and admonished other ASALA members to give up violence.[8][9]

His appeal of the sentence was declined, and he was hanged on 29 January 1983.[10][11]

Domestic response[edit]


President Kenan Evren issued a decree for the elimination of ASALA, while Prime Minister Bülend Ulusu condemned the attack.


Armenian poet Silva Kaputikyan wrote a poem It's raining my sonny dedicated to the memory of Levon Ekmekjian, one of two organizers of the Airport attack.[12]

Armenian Patriarch of Istanbul condemned the attack with a declaration.[citation needed]

Artin Penik, a Turkish Armenian, set himself on fire in protest of this attack on 10 August 1982 in Taksim Square, Istanbul.[13][14][15][16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Contemporary problems of international law, By Georg Schwarzenberger, Bin Cheng, Edward Duncan Brown, 1988, p. 27
  2. ^ United States Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Significant Incidents of Political Violence Against Americans.
  3. ^ "6 killed in attack in Ankara airport". The New York Times. August 8, 1982. Retrieved 14 February 2015. 
  4. ^ "DEATH TOLL RISES TO 9 IN TURKISH AIRPORT ATTACK - A fatally injured American woman, identified by the State Department as Jean Bosworth of Falmouth, Mass., being aided Saturday after an attack by Armenian terrorists at Ankara's Esenboga Airport. A Turkish Government spokesman said Mrs. Bosworth was shot in the back as she fled. Her husband was wounded. A hospital spokesman said half of the 72 persons injured by one bomb set off by the terrorists and gunfire have been released. The attackers say they are avenging a massacre of Armenians by Turks in 1915. -". 9 August 1982. Retrieved 20 December 2014. 
  5. ^ Associated Press. Death Toll Climbs To 9 In Attack By Terrorists On Ankara Airport. St. Petersburg Times. August 9, 1982
  6. ^ Time, August 23, 1982. A Cry for Bloody Vengeance
  7. ^ a b BBC, September 9, 1982. Armenian Terrorist Sentenced to Death.
  8. ^ Rand Corporation. Trends in International Terrorism, 1982 and 1983.
  9. ^ BBC, September 13, 1982. Armenian Terrorist's Letter: Turks "Not Our Enemies".
  10. ^ BBC, February 2, 1983. Armenian terrorist executed in Turkey.
  11. ^ "AROUND THE WORLD - Turkey Executes 5, Including an Armenian -". 30 January 1983. Retrieved 20 December 2014. 
  12. ^ Spurk Journal, #1-12, 2005, Beirut, p. 35.
  13. ^ Oran, Baskın (2006-12-17). "The Reconstruction of Armenian Identity in Turkey and the Weekly Agos (Interview with Hrant Dink)". Nouvelles d'Armenie. Retrieved 2008-09-02. 
  14. ^ "Armenian Issue: Chronology". Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Archived from the original on May 23, 2009. Retrieved 2007-02-21. 
  15. ^ "He was an Armenian: Artin Penik". Turkish Journal. Retrieved 2007-02-21. 
  16. ^ Associated Press (August 16, 1982). "Armenian Dies Of Self-inflicted Burns". Observer-Reporter. Retrieved 1 December 2012. 

External links[edit]