Turkey has been struck by a wave of terrorist attacks that are likely to have come from multiple sources. There had been a warning from the Americans that an attack was imminent and likely, but it was to no avail and at least 34 people died and another 125 were injured when a car bomb was detonated in Ankara. The attack was on the evening of March 13 at a time when the city was crowded with shoppers and tourists. It killed dozens of military personnel and probably both of the bombers. The attack was mere blocks away from a similar attack in February.
Although it would be easy to blame the Turkish security forces for an ‘intelligence failure’ given the fact that there was forewarning, that would considerably underplay the complexity of the onslaught that Turkey currently faces. President Recep Erdogan, as he is required to do, has vowed to defeat the terrorists that currently have the country by the throat but that is going to be a lot easier said than done. There are at least three armed groups bent on the downfall of the Turkish government and one of them, Kurdish in origin, has been fighting the state for generations in search of autonomy. The Islamic State is a newcomer to the stage and has motives entirely different from those of the Kurds. One of the pro-Kurdish groups, the Kurdish Democratic People’s Party, has denounced the attack, whilst another, the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks, has reiterated its desire to bring down the state and to target the airlines that fly tourists into the country, which is sure to raise the concerns of tour operators. The tourist industry has already been hard hit and will only decline further as tourists globally opt out of destinations where terrorists target them. The country is struggling to cope with the refugee flow that is the fallout from the Syrian civil war and the never-easy relationship with Greece is further strained as the refugees seek to leave Turkey and enter the European Union by whatever means. Turkey is fighting terrorism on several fronts and thus far is not winning on any of them.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 15th, 2016.