How the Istanbul Attack is Different From Paris And Brussels
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.
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
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.
Ataturk airport usually has fairly high levels of security, but I noticed it seemed tighter than usual when I traveled last week.
— John Beck (@JM_Beck) June 28, 2016
Important to note that security checks at Ataturk airport are double. Before you enter you are checked and again after crossing customs.
— Peter Nut (@nipped) June 28, 2016
Istanbul Ataturk airport has external security before even check-in; so where did the bomber get to?
— Zeynep Tufekci (@zeynep) June 28, 2016
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
— Emmanuelle Saliba (@_esaliba) June 29, 2016
According to this infographic, Turkey has suffered 8 terrorist attacks in the past year. That's one every 6.5 weeks pic.twitter.com/TagbFeUEuN
— Shiraz Maher (@ShirazMaher) June 29, 2016
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.
More people killed last night in Istanbul airport attack (36 victims and 3 attackers) than in Brussels airport attack (32 and 3 attackers).
— Dion Nissenbaum (@DionNissenbaum) June 29, 2016
— Jhanzaib Talib (@JhanzaibTalib) June 29, 2016
ISIS hasn't taken responsibility, but has been blamed
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.
7. To give you a sense of IS' deafening silence 17hrs post-attack: It's not even mentioned in their Turkish bulletin https://t.co/rQ1JTKdDnu
— Rukmini Callimachi (@rcallimachi) June 29, 2016
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.
BREAKING: Turkish official says Istanbul airport suicide attackers were from Russia, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.
— The Associated Press (@AP) June 30, 2016
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.
Ataturk Intl. Airport is up and running. Bravo Turkey! Terrorism failed to destroy this bridge between East & West! pic.twitter.com/cEnjUX3GZl
— Mohamed Arafa (@arafamarafa) June 29, 2016
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.
Impressive how quickly this happened. https://t.co/q2DD7viJgL
— Bobby Ghosh (@ghoshworld) June 29, 2016
Ataturk airport is among the world's busiest, did hold a moment of silence for those killed Tuesday.
I have never seen Ataturk airport so still... Moment for victims of istanbul airport terror attack. pic.twitter.com/I8GvryvDNM
— gultuysuz (@gultuysuz) June 30, 2016
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.