Attack in Turkey a reminder that we cannot let our guard down
China may not be involved in the fight against Islamic State and Hong Kong may seem safe from attacks; but as the latest developments show, terrorism knows no boundaries
The Turkish authorities suspect Islamic State is responsible for the suicide shooting-bombing that took at least 41 lives and injured more than 240 at Istanbul airport. Otherwise, they might have blamed the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), because the government of President Reccep Erdogan has been fighting on two fronts. Erdogan has rallied his people to stand with the government against both threats. The government, however, ought to consider whether it can focus its efforts on the violent, ultra-radical IS, with whom Kurdish forces are also engaged in combat in border areas with Iraq and Syria.
In a long battle for autonomy, moderate Kurdish leaders have been peace negotiation partners on and off in the past. They remain potential negotiating partners on cooperation that would allow Turkey to focus all its resources on supporting a US-led coalition to eliminate IS, with whom there is no room for accommodation.
Nearly 50 Chinese tourists were among people safely evacuated from Ataturk airport and about 80 Hongkongers in the area have been confirmed safe. Ten terrorist attacks in less than a year – not to mention 85 that security officials claim to have thwarted this year alone – have taken a heavy toll on Turkey’s tourist industry, with a sharp drop in visitors from Europe and Russia. There must now be doubt about plans to compensate for that drop with more than a million Chinese tourists this year.
Closer to home, as IS continues offshoring terrorist violence in the face of combat setbacks in the Middle East, IS in Syria has claimed that two followers were responsible for this week’s bomb attack on a nightclub in Malaysia for conducting “disrespectful sinful activities” during the month of Ramadan. This follows a claim by Southeast Asian fighters for IS in the Middle East that they have selected Abu Abdullah, a leader of the Philippine militant group Abu Sayyaf, to spearhead a regional faction. According to a Philippines intelligence official, the claim was made in a video posted recently on social media, and is considered significant by anti-terrorist experts because it shows IS supporters are now being asked to unify under an umbrella group to launch attacks in the region.
China may not be involved in the fight against Islamic State and Hong Kong may seem safe from attacks but, as the latest developments remind us, terrorism knows no boundaries. That is reason enough not to relax security at our own airport or to assume that other exposed targets are off the radar.