WMNews: Istanbul Airport Attack

Script written by Sean Harris The end of June 2016 saw chaos and terror at one of the world’s busiest airports. Welcome to WatchMojo News, the weekly series from WatchMojo.com where we break down news stories that might be on your radar. In this instalment, we're counting down 10 crucial facts you should know about the Istanbul Airport Attack.

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Script written by Sean Harris

Top 10 Istanbul Airport Attack Facts

The end of June 2016 saw chaos and terror at one of the world’s busiest airports. Welcome to WatchMojo News, the weekly series from WatchMojo.com where we break down news stories that might be on your radar. In this instalment, we’re counting down 10 crucial facts you should know about the Istanbul Airport Attack.

#10: What Happened at the Istanbul Airport?
The Massacre

On June 28th, 2016, shortly before 22:00 local time, a group of gunmen, armed with explosives, entered Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, Turkey, as part of an organised terror attack. Reports indicate that there were three attackers in total, at least two of which blew themselves up shortly after opening fire on passengers and people at the airport’s international Terminal 2 building. It is presumed that the third was shot by security before he could self-detonate – though his explosive belt did go off after. There were hundreds of people inside the building at the time of the attack; 45 people, not including the attackers, were killed and almost 240 injured. No planes were damaged as part of the attack.

#9: Who Is Responsible for the Attack?
The Perpetrators

Details regarding the attackers were slow to come to light, but the massacre was quickly linked to ISIS – although, the group had yet to claim responsibility itself as of the beginning of July. According to reports, two of the three perpetrators have been named as Rakim Bulgarov and Vadim Osmanov, and the trio had lived together in a home in Istanbul for several weeks. However, the attackers are believed to be foreign nationals, from Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Russia. Turkish officials are said to have strong evidence that the men travelled from the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa in Syria, and that senior ISIS leadership may have been involved in planning the attack.

#8: Who Were the Victims?
The Travellers

The total death toll rose to 45 on July 2nd, when it was confirmed that a Jordanian child had died in hospital after the attack. Umut Sakaroglu was also among the dead, a customs officer who shot one of the attackers before stopping to check the gunman’s condition and being caught up in a suicide detonation. Ataturk Airport’s Terminal 2 is an international terminal; at least 24 of the victims were Turkish, 3 Saudi Arabian and 2 Iraqi. Palestinian officials also report that a Palestinian mother and her son were killed, and there were other victims from China, Tunisia, Iran, Uzbekistan and Ukraine.

#7: How Has the International Community Responded?

At least 80 countries officially condemned the attacks and expressed support for Turkey. Several important structures around the world were also lit up with the colors of the Turkish flag and #PrayForTurkey was trending on social media as a show of solidarity. However, many analysts have criticised the international reaction to events as significantly more muted that that for other recent attacks. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan highlighted in a written statement that the attacks could have happened anywhere, saying that terrorists see no difference between “Istanbul and London, Ankara and Berlin, Izmir and Chicago”. Yet critics have pointed out that what happened in Turkey appeared to receive much less coverage and concern compared to recent attacks on Western soil.

#6: How Does This Compare to Other Recent Terror Attacks Around the World?
The Threat of ISIS

In the first half of 2016 alone, major terror attacks have included a suicide truck bomb killing 60 people in Libya on January 7th, major blasts in Iraq killing at least 100 on January 11th, and the bombing and shooting in Brussels on March 22nd, which saw 32 die. On April 21st, at least 250 women were shot in Iraq; on June 12th, 49 died in the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida; July 2nd and July 3rd saw bombings in Baghdad that reportedly killed around 125 people. All of these attacks have since been linked to, or claimed by, ISIS. And there have been many more incidents across the world in 2016, with numerous other attacks taking place in Iraq and Syria in particular. Suicide bombings, gun massacres and car bombs are reported on an almost daily basis – although they are rarer in the West, the international threat remains.

#5: What Was Turkey’s Response?
A State of Unrest

In the aftermath of the attack, Turkish officials carried out a series of raids in an attempt to learn more about the perpetrators, and to try and capture accomplices. Dawn raids on ISIS suspects in Istanbul, and in the Aegean coastal city of Izmir, saw 16 people detained on Thursday, June 30th, – including 3 foreign nationals. Turkish police also carried out an investigation on the attackers’ apartment, collecting digital data and documents relating to the attacks. As Ataturk is one of Turkey’s key airports – and the third busiest in Europe – there has been mounting pressure from within the country to tackle terrorism more aggressively. President Erdogan called for national and international unity to combat the threat.

#4: How Else Has Turkey Been Affected by Terror?
The Wave of Terror

Unfortunately, the Istanbul airport attack is just the latest in a series of similar acts of terrorism in Turkey in 2016. A suicide bombing in the city in January saw 13 people killed; 29 died and 60 were injured in February in a bombing in Ankara; 37 people were killed and over 125 injured in another Ankara bombing in March. ISIS has also mounted a series of rocket attacks on Turkey in 2016, focussed on the city of Kilis, close to the Syrian border. Over 70 rockets have been fired, killing 20 civilians. Kilis, a city of over 100,000 people, is an especially dangerous target because it is located so close to the ISIS-occupied Syrian al-Bab district. The city has also been put under extra pressure as its population has more than doubled with the Syrian migrant crisis.

#3: What Does This Mean for European-Middle Eastern Relations?
A Gateway

Turkey, and Istanbul in particular, has long been thought of as a meeting place between the East and West. And with Turkey’s continuing efforts to become part of the EU, the country serves as a gateway between cultures. However, its close proximity to Syria and the Middle East poses a diplomatic problem, with terror groups including ISIS allegedly entering Europe through its borders. Tension mounts on the continent, as Europe continues to see violent terror attacks like this, or Brussels, or Paris in November 2015. The migrant crisis is also ongoing, with thousands of refugees fleeing war-torn countries. In general, European-Middle Eastern relations are extremely strained, and the Ataturk terrorist attack is another frightening instance of the threat that exists.

#2: What Does This Mean for Turkish Security?
The Crisis

Turkey has already scaled back on previously relaxed open border policies in an attempt to improve national security, but the country is fighting a war on two fronts. While ISIS continues to pose massive problems on the Syrian border, priority has historically been given to the fight against the Kurdish insurgents, PKK, in the southeast. According to analysts, it is for that reason that ISIS doesn’t usually lay official claim to attacks in Turkey, so as to keep Turkish attention divided. There is also the major problem that Turkey has still to establish a clear legal definition as to what actually constitutes as ISIS; as a result, the group has established deep and troubling networks in the country.

#1: How Will These Attacks Affect the World in the Long Term?
The Uncertainty

The Ataturk Airport attack is a further reminder of the constant threat of terrorism and religious extremism in Europe, and in international society. Coming just weeks after the Orlando nightclub shooting and days before massive car bombings in Baghdad, it’s clear that Turkey’s plight is the whole world’s problem. ISIS and similar organisations are set to continue staging similar attacks, and target nations are striving to improve security measures and ways to retaliate. For now, onlookers should remember what happened in Istanbul akin to Paris, Brussels, London, New York and countless other cities. The long-term effects may be unknown, but in the short term, solidarity is key.


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