What Turkey should do after Istanbul nightclub attack
2016 was one of the most dauntingly disturbing years in Turkey`s history. A spate of nationwide terror attacks one after the other, a botched military coup over the Bosphorus and strained foreign relations has Turkey reeling between the devil and the deep blue Mediterranean Sea.
New Year`s Eve, it was hoped, would usher in respite, aan inspiration of renewal for 2017, yet this year has heartbreakingly commenced blood-stained.
Reina club, a nocturnal magnet for Istanbul`s glamorous, a melting pot, a meeting spot, visited by celebrities,both global and local revelers, situated amidst the awe-inspiring Bosphorus Strait, witnessed Isis instigated blood-letting, where a gunman ruthlessly massacred 39 innocent revelers at Reina club, out of which sixteen were foreigners from twelve countries including seven from Saudi Arabia.
The killer is suspected to be of Uzbek or Kyrgyz origin, he callously sprayed one eighty bullets in a gut-wrenching seven-minute attack.
The terrorist had clearly been groomed in the Middle East, managing to escape the police, remaining below the radar by not using any technology nor any modern intelligence techniques.
On Monday, January 2, ISIS officially claimed responsibility for the Reina nightclub attack labelling Turkey a “protector of the Christian Cross” and all the victims as “Christians celebrating their apostate holiday“.
Turkish police are conducting an intensified manhunt, targeting people who journeyed from Izmir to Konya, where the main suspect allegedly stayed prior to the attack.
Anti-terror squads placed twelve suspects behind bars as Turkey carried out raids on Isis suspects in Syria with tanks and artillery attacking 103 targets close to al-Bab, killing 22 fighters as a retaliation for the attack.
Turkey is facing immense pressure as the killer is on the loose. Checkpoints have been erected all along Istanbul on Wednesday 3rd January as officials inspect vehicles. Police arrested 12 people in raids on Tuesday.
However such hard military retaliation, essential of course, must also be complemented by soft civic engagement which fully integrates the 3 million Syrian refugees that Turkey generously accommodates including intensified peace talks with the Kurdish contingency, especially in the South East, given Turkey`s key geo-strategic importance, Nato membership and a strategic partner in the US-led coalition vis-à-vis ISIS.
Turkish intelligence affirms similarities between the Reina attack and the gun attack at Istanbul’s Atatürk airport in Ramadan 2016, believing the same ISIS cell may have carried out both carnages.
Intensified intelligence infiltration into these cells will be paramount.
In 2016, a minimum of 300 innocent Turkish civilians were killed and thousands were severely injured due terror attacks sinisterly spearheaded by ISIS or the PKK Kurdistan terrorists
Turkey has since decisively commenced Operation Euphrates Shield in Northern Syria supporting Syrian rebels full throttle against ISIS and the Kurdish PYD militants.
Since August 2016, approximately 1600 Isis and PYD terrorists have been killed, captured or injured by Turkish forces. In Astana, Kazakhstan, Presidents Erdogan and Putin signed a treaty regarding Syria, converging interests with Tehran, accelerating peace talks between Assad and the rebels excluding ISIS and the PYD.
The aforementioned vehemently unsettles ISIS who hungers for revenge. After losing prized territory they are hell-bent on instigating instability, manipulating the nebulous border between Turkey and Syria.
In December 2016, ISIS released a video depicting the killing of two Turkish soldiers encouraging its brain-washed sheepish supporters to “conquer” Istanbul in an apocalyptic end of days symbolism of sadistic grandeur to revive the historical triumphs of Islamic emperors of yore such as Sultan Mehmet Fatih who conquered Istanbul.
As Isis suffer setbacks on the blood-stained battlefields of Syria and Iraq, especially Manbij and Mosul, they become more fluid and flexible in their asymmetrical fifth generation warfare strategy using propaganda and any weapon item available be it a vehicle as in Nice and Berlin or a normal pistol.
To retain their recruitment drive and relevance, IS deflect world attention from their territorial setbacks by imposing grisly global attacks abroad, especially on soft civilian Western targets, such as the Tunisian driver in Berlin which gives them cheap and immediate publicity.
Such attacks keep them in the headlines, the media limelight, stir their recruitment base, publicizes their deadly anti-modernity agenda, and perpetuates their image of shock, horror and awe – which is what they most thirst for.
Though the ISIS rule may crumble and disintegrate into pieces, its many incarnations will keep infesting itself in schools, social media, universities, and most dangerously in the hearts and minds of the misguided, giving rise to new terror cells.
The international community and Turkey, therefore cannot only legislate and act against a divisive viral idea such as militant extremism.
In Turkey and beyond, the soil is now fertile to ripen the seeds for community outreach, social inclusion, grass-roots initiatives, counter-narratives, neighbourhood cohesion schemes, enlightened education and inter-faith harmony.