Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has confirmed that a Syrian suicide bomber is likely responsible for an explosion near one of the largest tourist spots in Istanbul which killed 10 people. Most of those killed were German. In addressing the tragedy, Erdogan said, “I condemn the terror incident in Istanbul, assessed to be an attack by a suicide bomber with Syrian origin. Unfortunately we have 10 dead, including foreigners and Turkish nationals . . . There are also 15 wounded.”
Erdogan’s comments strongly imply that ISIS was the perpetrator of Tuesday morning’s attack. As of this moment, no individual or group has claimed responsibility. However, senior Turkish security officials told the press that there was a “high probability” ISIS was the culprit. An investigation is underway.
The blast occurred in the Sultanahmet district, which is often full of tourists visiting local monuments. A citizen named Ramadan, a jewelry shop owner in the immediate area of the blast said that, “This is really bad – the situation was already bad, but this will only make things worse for tourism. I didn’t lose any friends, but all of the people of Istanbul are our friends and it is very sad to see this happening.”
Metin Gürcan, a security analyst, believe that all signs point to ISIS: “The choice of the location, the targeted nationalities, the way the attack was carried out and the government’s immediate effort to stop the dissemination of any information all point to Isis as the primary suspect. One of the tough questions for Turkey in the coming days is how to allocate security and intelligence capacities to fight more efficiently against ISIS-inspired terrorist attacks.”
Gürcan criticised Turkish intelligence agencies for failing to destroy the ISIS networks believed responsible for recent suicide attacks in Turkey despite the government’s knowledge of the existence of said networks.
He also noted that it was imperative that ISIS members and networks in Turkey were properly labeled as terrorists and terrorist organizations. He opined that, “The definition [of ISIS] needs to be very clear, and security forces need to be able to conduct more stringent operations against such cells, the tracking and hunting down of sleeper cells needs to be dramatically improved.”
President Erdogan verbally attacked foreign writers and academics for criticizing the Turkish government. He defiantly told them to, “Pick a side. You are either on the side of the Turkish government, or you’re on the side of the terrorists.”
Turkey borders Syria and is presently the home of more than 2 million Syrian refugees. Turkey was also recently a transit “station” for ISIS militants.