Wednesday, June 29, 2016

29-Jun-16: Footnotes to the Istanbul human-bomb horror

From ABC NEWS television coverage [here]
It's striking to read, on the morning after an awful massacre carried out by terrorists in one of the world's dozen busiest airports, that the first instinct of the politicians is to reach for a fig-leaf. And to be clear, it's surely not a uniquely-Turkish phenomenon.

What do we know now? According to Associated Press this morning
Suicide attackers killed dozens and wounded more than 140 at Istanbul's busy Ataturk Airport, as Turkish officials blamed Tuesday's massacre at the international terminal on three suspected Islamic State group militants. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said 36 were dead as well as the three suicide bombers. Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said 147 were wounded. Another senior government official told The Associated Press the death toll could climb much higher...
Yildirim said the attackers arrived at the airport in a taxi and blew themselves up after opening fire... Another Turkish official said two of the attackers detonated explosives at the entrance of the international arrivals terminal after police fired at them, while the third blew himself up in the parking lot. The official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government regulations, cited interior ministry information and said that none of the attackers managed to get past security checks at the terminal's entrance. Turkish airports have security checks at both the entrance of terminal buildings and then later before entry to departure gates...
Yildirim said there was no security lapse at the airport, but added the fact the attackers were carrying weapons "increased the severity" of the attack.
A BBC report today (archived here) points out that
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said early signs suggested the so-called Islamic State was behind the attack... Ataturk airport was long seen as a vulnerable target, our Turkey correspondent adds, reporting from a plane stuck on the tarmac in Istanbul. There are X-ray scanners at the entrance to the terminal but security checks for cars are limited.
Children run out of the airport terminal to safety
[Image Source]
BBC also points out that a US state department travel warning for Turkey, originally published in March and updated just this past Monday
urges US citizens to "exercise heightened vigilance and caution when visiting public access areas, especially those heavily frequented by tourists."
Our hearts go out to the Turks (where one of our children acquired some first-rate professional training at an Istanbul university a few years back), especially to those hurt last night, and to the families of those who tragically will not be coming home. The process ahead of them, adjusting to life after being the targets of a terrorist attack, is not simple and comfort is likely to come only in the far-distant future, if ever.

To recap on the basis of the brief, but authoritative, reports above:
  1. Notwithstanding the horrific loss of life, "no security lapse" happened. 
  2. Very fortunately, none of the attackers managed to get past security checks at the terminal's entrance. That must have been a great relief, says nobody.
  3. Leaving aside the quality of the airport security arrangements, Ataturk airport security's checking of cars is "limited". (When the US very properly call for "heightened vigilance" by tourists, are we meant to know which airports adequately check incoming vehicles? How?)
  4. In some way that is somehow significant, the killers arrived by taxi. Are vigilant travelers expected to avoid airports that allow taxis to pull up at the terminal? (Does anyone have a list?)
  5. The attackers carried weapons and that "increased the severity". That might even be a reasonable observation until you start to ponder whether the authorities have an actual plan for preventing such weapons-borne atrocities in the future. 
  6. The terrorists carried bombs. We wish the news reports had said they were bombs - human bombs. That is what each of the three known attackers was. It's what they ought to be called.
Note that neither AP nor BBC mention "terror" or "jihad" even once, in accordance with addled editorial policies that contribute nothing to ordinary people's comprehension of the issue and, in our opinion, add to the likelihood of yet more lethal political decision-making in the future.

No report anywhere (at least none we have seen) calls the Istanbul attackers what they actually are: "human bombs". This is a mistake because whatever brought them to Ataturk last night, this was about murder; suicide was never their goal. That's true even if the nature of the ideology likely motivating them made them indifferent to the outcome so far as it affected their own well-being and lives.

Last night's horror was based not on the self-destructive motivations that characterize suicide but by a profound, overwhelming hatred, identifiable in many places inside and outside Turkey at this very moment. It stems as well from a theologically-inspired sense of massively-lethal religious mission - something that is being inculcated into millions of people's heads at this minute, right under our noses.

UPDATE June 29, 2016 at 3:30 pm: The toll keeps rising...
"At least 41 people were killed, 130 injured Tuesday in a triple suicide bombing and gun attack at Istanbul's main Atatürk airport, in the latest deadly strike to rock Turkey's most-populated city, which had many similarities with the deadly attacks carried out in Brussels in March. Flights partially resumed in the airport on Wednesday morning, while many of the schedule flights were cancelled or delayed. Reports have said that one Ukrainian and one Iranian national was among those who were killed by the terrorist attack in the airport. Among the 37 identified victims were 10 foreign nationals and three dual citizens..." [Daily Sabah (Istanbul), today]

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