The suicide bombing attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport that left at least 41 dead and 239 injured hasn’t yet been claimed by any terrorist organization, but Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim firmly believes ISIS is to blame.
“The findings of our security forces point at the Daesh (the Arabic name for ISIS) organization as the perpetrators of this terror attack. Even though the indications suggest Daesh, our investigations are continuing.”
While the investigation into the Istanbul attack is ongoing, an ISIS-led attack would seem to make the most sense here. The other suspect in the attack would be the PKK, a Kurdish insurgent group that the Turkish state has been in bitter conflict with since peace negotiations broke down early last year, but their primary targets in the past have mainly been law enforcement and Turkish military. ISIS tends to aim at targets with an economic impact that are internationally recognized, which Ataturk Airport would certainly fall into. The Istanbul airport is the 11th busiest airport in the world, the third busiest airport in Europe, is the main entry point for the nearly 30 million visitors that Turkey receives on a yearly basis and is also the hub to the country’s biggest international brand, Turkish Airlines. But why attack Istanbul now?
For a while, it seemed that the conflict between ISIS and Turkey would stay cold. Turkey initially avoided joining the United States in its fight against the terrorist organization, disagreeing with their Western allies over the approach to the region. However, things have escalated over the past year after Turkish planes bombed ISIS positions in Syria for the first time last July, and currently allows U.S.-led coalition planes to fly raids from its territory on ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq. Turkey has a secular constitution, is a democracy that believes in gender equality for men and women, is a member of NATO and is currently in succession talks with the European Union. The country also just reached an agreement with Israel to restore diplomatic relations between the two nations, ending six years of turmoil that ensued following a 2010 Israeli raid on a flotilla bound for Gaza that left eight Turks and one American dead. So, it really wasn’t matter of if ISIS would attack Istanbul, but when.
Director of the Turkish Research Program at The Washington Institute, Soner Cagaptay, says that if ISIS is behind the Istanbul attack, Turkey would strike back and strike back harshly.
“If this Islamic State is indeed behind this attack, this would be a declaration of war. Turkey’s vengeance will come down like rain from hell on the Islamic State.”
Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama have both condemned the attacks in phone calls to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, echoed in a statement from White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest.
“The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms today’s heinous terrorist attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport in Turkey, which appears to have killed and injured dozens.
“We remain steadfast in our support for Turkey, our NATO Ally and partner, along with all of our friends and allies around the world, as we continue to confront the threat of terrorism.”
ISIS had no problem taking responsibility for the similar attacks that occurred in Brussels on March 22, but them not claiming responsibility for the attack on Istanbul only creates a level of confusion for Turkish officials and citizens alike, similar to when the Sunnis and Shiites blamed one another for suicide attacks from Al Qaeda more than a decade ago, leading to all-out civil war in Iraq. Perhaps ISIS is looking to do the same in Turkey between Turks and Kurds and supporters and opposers of President Erdogan. Tuesday’s attack on Istanbul was the fifth major attack of the year on Turkey’s largest city, which has led to many innocent lives being lost.
One can only hope that ISIS, if they are at fault, hasn’t set a trap that the citizens of Turkey walk right into. They’ve already gone through enough, don’t you think?
[Photo by AP Photo/Emrah Gurel]