Istanbul, January 13, 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency
Why the Islamic State targets Turkey’s tourism
By Manolis Kostidis
Panic and shock are the sentiments prevalent in Turkey after the terrorist attack that occurred in the “heart” of Istanbul in Sultanahmet Square a few meters from Hagia Sophia
At 10:20 am Tuesday, a suicide bomber belted with explosives approached the tram stop near the Blue Mosque and when he spotted the group of tourists approaching he ran towards them and activated the explosive device he was belted with.
From the powerful explosion, according to final account, 10 people were killed and 15 were injured, most of whom are German and Norwegian tourists. Ahmet Davutoglu announced that nine dead are German nationals and called on Angela Merkel to express his condolences.
The Turkish authorities initially tried to restrict the flow of information of this terrorist attack to not cause panic as there were fears for more suicide bombing attempts.
Two hours after the terrorist attack, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu urgently convened the Turkish Security Council with the participation of ministers, heads of the armed forces and head of MIT Hakan Fidan. The main conclusion is that the terrorist attacks have now reached Istanbul, which is both the economic and tourist center of Turkey.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed the information about the terrorist suicide bomber hit and said the perpetrator came from Syria, without specifying whether he was a member of the Islamic State.
Monday night, Davutoglu announced that the suicide bomber responsible for the terrorist attack was a member of the Islamic State and that he entered Turkey from Syria. He was 28 years old and was born in Saudi Arabia. On January 5, along with 4 other friends of his, they had made a request for a residence permit at the Istanbul Foreigners section.
However, the opposition and especially the Kurds are accusing the Turkish government of turning Turkey “into a Middle East country” with multiple terrorist attacks. In the past, the Republican People’s Party and the HDP had accused the Turkish government of supporting the jihadists in order to overthrow Assad.
Ankara in recent months has decided to join the coalition against the Islamic State and analysts estimate that these attacks are the jihadists’ reaction in this decision. They started by targeting the Kurds with such hits, because the latter are fighting ISIS in Syria, and now they are targeting the Turkish tourism with the terrorist attack in Sultanahmet.
Despite the successive blows and extraordinary measures taken, Turkey failed to prevent the terrorist activity and, what’s striking is that to date not one official has resigned despite the hundreds of victims.
On January 6, 2015 a female suicide bomber member of the Islamic State detonated an explosive device on her person, resulting in the death of herself and of a police officer, again in Sultanahmet Square.
In June, a suicide bomber of the Islamic State had hit the campaign rally of pro-Kurdish HDP Diyarbakir killing dozens of Kurds.
In Suruç of the city Şanlıurfa, 33 Kurds were killed by a suicide bomber of the Islamic state.
In October two suicide bombers had hit the peaceful demonstration of Kurds in Ankara, resulting in 150 people losing their lives and 250 more wounded.
And now came Istanbul’s turn, with this attacked expected to cause serious consequences to the Turkish tourism that annually contributes about USD 40 bn to the Turkish economy.
Despite the attack, however, on Monday night the tram in the area had started to operate, but no tourist could be seen in the area.
At the city’s closed market Kapalicarsi, the shops are empty as almost all the tourists located in Istanbul preferred to stay in their hotels for safety reasons. Besides, the German Embassy has issued a travel advisory to its citizens as have done other embassies.
Hoteliers already record many cancellations as the Media around the world are broadcasting images from the terrorist attack of the Islamic State in Istanbul.