Terror raises its ugly head again in Turkey | By Sultan M Hali


Terror raises its ugly head again in Turkey

THE twelve headed Hydra of terrorism refuses to die and has struck Istanbul in a deadly attack in which at least six people have been killed and 81 wounded in an explosion in a busy area of central Istanbul.

The blast happened at about 16:20 local time on Sunday 13 November, in a shopping street in the Taksim Square area.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, quick to rise to the occasion, announced that the perpetrators would be punished.

Speaking at a news conference in Istanbul, he condemned what he called the “vile attack” and said “the smell of terror” was in the air.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag told Turkish media that a woman had sat on a bench in the area for more than 40 minutes, leaving just minutes before the blast took place.

On Monday morning, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said a Syrian national – Ahlam Albashir – suspected of having left the bomb had been arrested by police.

She was among 47 people detained by police. He accused the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) of responsibility. The PKK denied any role in the bombing, saying “we will not directly target civilians”.

The militant group has been battling for decades to achieve Kurdish self-rule in south-east Turkey.

Acts of terrorism first appeared during the final stages of the Ottoman era, when various inimical forces were trying to weaken it.

Of the several nationalist groups who used violence against the Ottoman Empire, one was the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, a revolutionary movement founded in Tiflis (Russian Transcaucasia) in 1890 by Christapor Mikaelian.

Many members had been part of Narodnaya Volya or the Hunchakian Revolutionary Party. The group published newsletters, smuggled arms, and hijacked buildings as it sought to bring in European intervention that would force the Ottoman Empire to surrender control of its Armenian territories.

Some noteworthy attacks include the 24 August 1896 event in which 17-year-old Babken Suni led twenty-six members in capturing the Imperial Ottoman Bank in Constantinople (Istanbul).

The group threatened to blow up the bank, but later backed down. On 21 July 1905, a bombing perpetrated by the same group targeting Sultan Abdul Hamid II failed to kill the Sultan, while killing 26 and injuring 58 others.

Various groups, who were plotting the downfall of the Ottomans, included Jews, British, French and Russians.

Thus, terrorism is a significant issue for Turkish authorities. Most terrorist attacks in Turkey have occurred in the south-eastern and eastern provinces, and major cities like Ankara and Istanbul.

The group Dev-Genç was founded in 1969 and involved in a string of kidnappings, bombings and bank robberies until martial law was declared in 1971.

While these incidents were halted by 1973, attacks by the Armenian groups Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA) and Justice Commandos of the Armenian Genocide (JCAG) continued.

Kurds promoting the Kurdish language as well as demanding rights including independence have been responsible for various terror attacks.

The May 1977 bombing of the Istanbul airport and the Ankara Esenboða Airport attack was reportedly launched by the PKK, which has been responsible for the vast majority of terrorist attacks through the 1980s and 1990s.

These attacks disproportionately affected the eastern and south-eastern regions of Turkey, where the PKK focused its activities.

Notable terrorist attacks throughout this period include Pinarcik, Bingöl and Blue Market massacres.

Terror attacks in Turkey during the 1980s and 1990s emanated due to Jihadism. Turkish Hezbollah and the Great Eastern Islamic Raiders’ Front were responsible for the attacks.

Since the 2000s, there has been a rise in attacks from Islamist groups, some with links to Al-Qaeda.

The Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C) was established in 1994 following the breakup of the Dev Sol group.

The anti-American group, which opposed Turkish membership in NATO and the “Turkish establishment ideology”, has been involved in several high-profile attacks against American interests in Turkey.

In addition, Turkey’s involvement in the Syrian civil war and radical political elements in the country have also been a source for alleged terrorist attacks which have had a negative impact on the country’s tourism sector.

The DHKP/C began a campaign of suicide bombings in 2001 which intensified in 2003 in response to Turkish support in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

In March 2015 they took as a hostage a Turkish prosecutor who lost his life in the subsequent shootout with police.

An unsuccessful suicide bombing attempt in April 2015 targeted the Istanbul headquarters of the Turkish police.

The Kurdish group Kongra-Gel, which has been engaged in armed violence since the 1980s, continued its activities in south-eastern Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan.

In addition to clashes between the Turkish Armed Forces and KGK in Iraqi Kurdistan, the latter intensified its campaign in Turkey, and was involved in the high-profile kidnapping of a Turkish parliamentary deputy in August 2012.

In October 2014 Kurds were protesting against both the Turkish authorities and sympathizers of ISIL.

The March 2016 Ankara bombing killed at least 37 people and injured 125, that attack was claimed by the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks or TAK.

The 2016 Atatürk Airport attack, consisting of shootings and suicide bombings, occurred on 28 June 2016 at Atatürk Airport in Istanbul, Turkey.

Three ISIL-linked terrorists murdered forty-five people and injured 230.

The Dokumacilar is an Islamic terrorist group composed of about 60 Turkish militants who joined ISIL.

The group is responsible for the 2015 Suruç bombing which resulted in 32 deaths. Other attacks, including the 2017 Istanbul nightclub shooting, were perpetrated by ISIL.

There was a lull in the terror attacks but the latest assault of 13 November 2022, may have taken a toll of precious human lives but has not dampened the resilience of the brave Turk people in fighting adversity.

Pakistan was one of the first nations to express solidarity with Turkey in its moment of grief but other countries also followed suit.

French President Emmanuel Macron, European Council President Charles Michel, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the United States through White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre shared their sympathies for the Turkish people.

—The Author is a Retired Group Captain of PAF, who has written several books on China.


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