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How the Istanbul Attack is Different From Paris And Brussels

Ataturk International Airport (Matt @ PEK/Wikimedia)

Turkey's biggest city, Istanbul, suffered a serious attack at its Ataturk International Airport last Tuesday. Over 40 people died and dozens more injured in the police shootout on the attackers.

The terrorists also set off bombs. A third attacker blew up explosives in the airport parking lot.

It brings flashbacks to similar attacks in Paris and Brussels. But Turkey is a different story.

First, let's recap other major attacks in Europe

Paris, France, has dealt with two major attacks by terrorists; one on a the offices of satirical news publication named Charlie Hebdo, and another a set of coordinate attacks on a stadium, a concert hall, and restaurants, killing over 100 people.

Over in Brussels, Belgium, 34 people were killed in a multi-level attack hitting a metro station and the international airport.

The Islamic State carried out all these attacks.

The attack in Istanbul has some similarities -- but has stark differences too.

Turkey is basically in a separate region

Turkey is at the crossroads of the East and West and straddles Europe and Asia.

Turkey has been trying to join the European Union, with no luck so far.

Istanbul is an internationally recognized, cosmopolitan city. Turkey is largely Westernized yet also part of the Middle Eastern region, and it feels the effects of the five-year war in Syria. The conflict is right on its border, and they host 2.5 million refugees.

In contrast, France and Belgium are dealing tens of thousands--not millions--of refugees, as compared to Turkey.

Turkey has one of the world's most busy and secure airports

A photo from passport control at Ataturk airport (Charles Kremenak/Flickr)

The Ataturk airport in Istanbul is Europe's third busiest airport and the world's eleventh busiest. Security is tighter at Ataturk than at many airports across the world.

It's serious. People have to go through security X-ray machines not once, but twice, in the international departures terminal. Drivers get screened a third time, as the airport has a security checkpoint for suspicious vehicles outside the airport.

But the attackers in Istanbul got in the airport through the arrivals section, where there is weaker security.

At airports in America and across the world, including Paris and Brussels, people can say goodbye to their loved ones without having to go through security. At Ataturk, they can't even enter the building without going through a checkpoint.

People sometimes call airports "soft targets," where security is a priority but can't provide 100% protection, because of factors like public transportation and public spaces.

It's difficult. Brussels and Istanbul, as well as Paris's soccer stadium and Bataclan concert hall, share similarities in struggling to secure "soft targets." Even Turkey's higher level of security failed to protect the airport.

This isn't the first terror attack for Turkey

Turkey is a relatively safe country with a large population and many traveling tourists. However, it has been prone to terror attacks over the last year or so. Security is a priority for the country because of those war zones it borders and because it wants to maintain safety for global visitors.

But Paris and Brussels were more shocked by attacks in their cities than Turks were about the attack on theirs. It isn't normal or expected for those European capitals, for other Western capitals like those in America.

That's a big part of why Paris and Brussels seem to be bigger stories in America than the Turkey attack. Yet given that Turkey is relatively Westernized and well-known, it's a bigger story than similar attacks in places like Lebanon or Iraq.

ISIS hasn't taken responsibility, but has been blamed

Ataturk International Airport (Ercan Karaka?/Wikimedia)

ISIS and their supporters have been surprisingly quiet about Turkey.

Chatrooms and online boards for the terror group usually boil up after an attack like this, and often ISIS releases an official claim of responsibility within a day or two.

Plus, Turkey is known to be home to many ISIS cells working with strongholds in Syria and Iraq. Yet there's still nothing from ISIS on this recent attack. And no other group has claimed responsibility either.

Yet, Turkish officials say evidence from the scene show it was done in the style of ISIS attackers. So they're blaming ISIS.

In fact, they claim ISIS leadership was involved in the planning of the Istanbul attack.

And the attackers' origins have been revealed to not even be from Turkey. Turkish officials say they're Russian, Uzbek and Kyrgyz nationals.

Most of the attackers in Paris were from Belgium or other European countries and had traveled to Middle Eastern countries including Turkey. The attackers in Brussels were also from the country.

Things moved on quickly afterwards

Ataturk was right back to its regular schedule in less than a day.

Flights were briefly paused from the US and from the airport, but resumed quickly when the airport resumed normal operations.

This is different from the attacks in Paris and Brussels, where the crime scenes were closed for weeks. The Brussels airport was closed for almost a week after the suicide bombings there. Then when it reopened, it was only 20% open; a month after, it was 80% open.

Ataturk airport is among the world's busiest, did hold a moment of silence for those killed Tuesday.

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How the Istanbul Attack is Different From Paris And Brussels

Patrick deHahn

Patrick deHahn is a freelance international news reporter, having contributed to The Atlantic online and Mic. He's worked at CNNMoney, the New York Daily News, and Voice of America. Patrick loves tweeting, reading, and grabbing coffee in either New York or Washington D.C. Tweet anything on politics or world conflict to him! Follow: @patrickdehahn.

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