Istanbul Ataturk airport attack: ISIL suspected

A terrorist attack on Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport overnight has killed 41 and wounded more than 230 in one of the most significant terrorist attacks in the country to date. The airport has reopened however the situation remains fluid.

Although no group has claimed responsibility, the Turkish Prime Minister has stated that early indications point to ISIL as the group most likely to have the combination of motivation and ability to carry out this type of attack.

Initial reports indicate that two terrorists armed with assault rifles attacked internal security barriers at the airport and when fired upon by police, detonated suicide vests. A third terrorist detonated a suicide vest in the carpark. This type of attack shares similarities with previous ISIL attacks in Europe, such as in Paris in November 2015, Brussels in March 2016 and Turkey in March 2016. 

This attack, the seventh in Turkey this year, is a clear indication that ISIL possesses the infrastructure required to conduct a sustained terrorist campaign in the country. To date, Turkish security services have displayed an inability to prevent these types of attacks, and this is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. The close proximity of Turkey to Syria and the porousness of the border also means that ISIL faces little difficulty in transporting equipment, and even personnel, from Syria to carry out these types of attacks.

The immediate reaction will likely be a widespread security crackdown by Turkish security services, which may lead to clashes between members of ISIL and Turkish police and soldiers. However, ISIL has displayed an ability to weather these security measures in the past and any suppression of ISIL activity in Turkey is likely to be temporary.

Over the medium term, it is likely that another attack of this type will occur and based on past attacks it is likely that ISIL will seek to target iconic infrastructure, such as airports or popular tourist destinations, to achieve as much international impact as possible.

All travellers to Turkey should heed government travel advisories, keep updated of the current situation and employ safety precautions if traveling to Istanbul.

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