BOMBING ATTACK ON ISTANBUL’S TOURIST HUB LAYS BARE WORSENING SECURITY

ISTANBUL — A suicide bombing attack on Istanbul’s historic Sultanahmet Square on Tuesday has left 10 people dead, among them nine German tourists, laying bare a worsening security situation in crises-ridden Turkey.

The square, a famed tourist hub that sits next to the city’s must-sees like Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace and the so-called Blue Mosque, draws tens of thousands of tourists from across the globe every day.

Addressing a gathering of ambassadors in Ankara, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed a Syrian suicide bomber for the powerful blast.

“I strongly condemn the terror attack which was carried out by a suicide bomber of Syrian origin,” he said.

By targeting such a hot spot thronged with foreigners, the attacker was seeking to add more pressure on the Turkish government, which is grappling with a host of domestic and foreign crises, analysts say.

“Turkey is under tremendous pressure of Western countries to conduct comprehensive and effective IS struggle,” noted Erhan Kelesoglu, an analyst from Istanbul University.

Despite pressure from allies, Turkey is accused of acting slow to secure its porous border with Syria, making it not hard for IS militants and sympathizers to travel there.

For all that, Ankara has opened its bases to the US-led coalition battling against the IS, launched more operations at home against foreign fighters in transit and militants linked with the group, and started to build concrete walls along the border to stem infiltrations.

Since last July, a series of deadly attacks have befallen Turkey, including the deadliest one the country had ever had in its history as twin suicide bombings alone left a total of 103 dead in the national capital of Ankara in October.

Now by targeting Turkey’s “vein” and killing tourists at the center of Istanbul, IS is aiming to “show the world how unsecured Turkey is,” said Oytun Orhan, an analyst with Turkey’s ORSAM think-tank.

The blast will “force Turkey to strengthen its fight against IS” and “in the short run we can expect some more detentions and operations targeting IS militants,” said Kelesoglu.

“This incident once again has shown us that we have to stay united against terrorism,” Erdogan stressed in his speech.

Turkey, facing a slowing-down economy at home and poor relations with Russia and Iraq, is making changes to its policies.

That how far will Turkey move to play its role in the battle against the scourge of terrorism and help ease tensions in the region remains to be seen in the months to come. PNA/Xinhua / northboundasia.com