Referring to Tuesday’s suicide bombings at the Istanbul Ataturk Airport that killed dozens, a U.S. government official told me there is “no reason to think it isn’t ISIS.” The official also noted that the airport is “not a typical PKK target,” using the initials of a Kurdish group that also has carried out a number of recent terrorist attacks in Turkey.
In the past month, we’ve seen a surge of terrorism in the Middle East and the West.
None of this should be too surprising. After all, ISIS explicitly called for terrorist attacks during the holy month of Ramadan, which commenced three weeks ago.
The same day, the Istanbul airport was attacked by three suicide bombers who were likely dispatched by ISIS.
In the past two and half weeks, ISIS-inspired attackers also struck in the West, first in Orlando, Florida, where 49 people were killed in a gay nightclub — the most lethal terrorist attack in the United States since 9/11 — and, the day after the Orlando attack, an ISIS terrorist killed a police official and his partner in a town outside Paris.
Unfortunately, we may see more attacks. For Islamist terrorist groups such as ISIS, the holy month of Ramadan — a time of fasting and prayer for the vast majority of Muslims — is seen as a particularly auspicious time to launch terrorist attacks.
This is especially the case around the 27th day of Ramadan, the “Night of Power,” which is a particularly sacred day for the world’s Muslims as it was the time that the Prophet Mohammed started receiving the first verses of the Koran.
On the Night of Power in 2000, which that year fell on January 3, al Qaeda militants attempted to launch a suicide attack against the American warship USS The Sullivans off the coast of Yemen with a bomb-filled boat. The attack failed. This year, the 27th day of Ramadan will fall on July 2.
In October, ISIS’ Egyptian affiliate brought down a Russian commercial jet leaving Sinai airport, killing all 224 people on board, the deadliest attack on commercial aviation since 9/11.
ISIS also has ample motivation to want to attack Turkey. Where the Turks once had a laissez-faire attitude to the tens of thousands of “foreign fighters” who have transited Turkey to join ISIS in neighboring Syria, now the Turks have substantially cut down on ISIS recruits traveling though their country.
Such battlefield losses may serve to accelerate ISIS-directed and -inspired attacks outside of Iraq and Syria.