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TRAVEL ADVISORY – Terror Attack in Izmir, Turkey

Key Points:

  • The death toll from the attack is currently at four.
  • Turkish officials have claimed that they prevented a larger attack.
  • The PKK have been accused of conducting the attack.

Situation Summary:
Terrorism: The second terror attack in a week occurred in Turkey on 05 January 2017. Terrorists detonated a car bomb outside of a court complex in the Turkish coastal city of Izmir. A police officer and court official were killed in the blast, and at least six people were wounded. Two of the attackers were subsequently killed in a gunfight with security forces; a third attacker is believed to be on the run. Local officials have reported that a rocket launcher, eight hand grenades, and two fully automatic firearms were also found at the scene. It is believed that a larger attack was planned and the car bomb was only detonated because the attackers were stopped by police. The Provincial governor has blamed the attack on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Intrinsic Comment:
Despite being, by some estimates, the third largest city in Turkey, Izmir has not been subjected to attacks in the same way Istanbul, Ankara, or the southeast of the country has. The attack was also a surprise to some given Izmir’s attraction for foreign tourists; resort locations have been generally unaffected by Turkey’s ongoing struggles with terrorism. The type of location attacked (a court house) is generally in line with the type of attacks undertaken by Kurdish militants. They are known to attack soldiers, police, and the government, as they seek independence from the Turkish state. In December 2016, Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK) attacked security forces after a football game in Istanbul, killing at least 31 police officers and seven civilians. However, Kurdish militants have shown themselves to be keen to not impact foreigners.

There is also the possibility that the attack is linked to the Istanbul nightclub attack, in which 39 people were killed. Turkish officials have identified a man that they believe was the attacker. He is believed to have been an ethnic Uyghur (a Muslim group from Central Asia and northwest China). While the Islamic State have claimed responsibility for that attack, it is unclear if it was directed or inspired by the terror group. In aftermath of that attack, 36 Uyghurs with alleged links to the perpetrator were arrested in Izmir, along with weapons. It is possible that these arrests and the attack at the courthouse are linked.

Security Advice:
Risk Ratings: Turkey: High Terrorism: Severe
Travellers should pay special attention to this attack, not because of its severity but because of its location. Most tourist resort locations in Turkey had not been subjected to same terror threat as many places across the country. This attack suggests that Islamist or Kurdish militants may be changing their tactics. Travellers should consider reviewing their security arrangements in country. This, and other recent terror attacks, suggest that the terrorist threat in Turkey has increased and is not isolated to the southeast region. Travellers should also expect an enhanced level of security nationwide including more police checkpoints and raids. Further clampdowns on freedom of expression and assembly are to also be expected. Intrinsic would advise clients to employ enhanced security measures and extensive journey management planning when visiting Turkey. Within Izmir itself, Intrinsic would advise clients to employ a security driver for the foreseeable future, as the facts of this event develop. We would also advise travellers to use travel-tracking technology in order to gain rapid access to the latest incidents and to notify others should an incident occur. This advised security provision level may be reduced in the medium- to long-term. When travelling to other areas of Turkey, higher levels of security protection may be more suitable. Generally, enhanced security measures are not required in tourist resorts but this may change.

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