Tuesday’s bloody suicide bombings at Istanbul Airport were most likely carried out by Islamic State (IS) to undermine the Turkish economy by sowing mayhem ahead of the summer months, when tourism peaks, according to Ege Seckin, an analyst at IHS Country Risk. Others note that IS’ possible involvement and motivations for the terror strike remain murky.

Seckin says the attack, which killed 41 and wounded 239, also was likely aimed at pressuring Turkey into preventing Kurdish forces and the Syrian government in northern Syria from shutting down its last access point to the Syrian-Turkish border, through their advances on the towns of Manbij and al-Bab, respectively.

“The capability of the Islamic State and similar Sunni militant groups in Turkey is likely to continue to expand so long as Turkey permits domestic political Islamism to grow unchecked,” Seckin wrote in a post-attack analysis. He added that the semi-autonomous and non-hierarchical nature of Islamic State cells in Turkey renders the pre-emption of their attacks by the security forces difficult.

Turkey’s reconciliation with Israel, announced on June 27, is also expected to reinforce the Islamic State’s narrative that “apostate” governments of Muslim majority countries are aligned with “Jews, Crusaders and unbelievers” against the true Islam it claims to represent. Other analysts and reports question whether the attack was tied to the deal with Israel.

They note that IS’ ties to the airport attack remain problematic. The group typically doesn’t claim credit for its attacks on Turkish targets for reasons that are still unclear. This, despite earlier bombings in Turkey in which IS was clearly involved, and the fact that its forces regularly shell the Turkish border town of Kilis. The dead from Tuesday’s attack also appear to have been budget travelers from Turkey and Middle East countries, travelling at unaccustomed hours, rather than western tourists, according to an analyst who asked not to be identified.

A man looks at a broken glass at Istanbul Ataturk airport, Turkey, the day after the attack.
REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

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