Istanbul attack: A grim reminder of why airports are easy targets

Istanbul’s main airport has always been seen as a vulnerable target which only underscores the fact that all airports in the world are open to attack.

Bikram Vohra June 29, 2016 11:15:59 IST
Istanbul attack: A grim reminder of why airports are easy targets

Even as I write this the echo of gunfire continues at Ataturk International Airport.

For reasons that defy logic, Istanbul’s main airport has always been seen as a vulnerable target which only underscores the fact that all airports in the world are open to attack and fail-safe is not a viable option.

At Ataturk, security is usually high, but the weak underbelly lies in vehicular traffic entering the airport being given cursory checks, pretty much like most airports which is why President Erdogan was able to say this sort of attack could have occurred anywhere.

That is true. Airports are easy targets. That even though Turkey was aware of the chinks nothing much was done to up the security levels.

Istanbul attack A grim reminder of why airports are easy targets

Passengers embrace each other as they wait outside Istanbul's Ataturk airport on Wednesday. AP

If you take Delhi International as a prime example, the access to the terminal is scarcely blockaded and one can reach the entry points with ease, crossing a couple of indolent checkpoints and a roller fence. Indian airports are as porous as a sponge. Most of our airports are red-starred which places them in the inadequate category. Add to that the fact that several thousand VIPs are given privileges that make a pudding out of security and it indicates how easy peasy it would be to amble up to the terminal entrance.

The weakness primarily lies in the absence of X-Rays and deterrent technology on approach. You practically can check in and get to immigration before being cleared for hazardous material.

Rapid response units like those you see at CDG in Paris are not common and yet, bristling with armament can be intimidating.

Whether the announcement from the Turkish government that this attack will wake the world up to the reality of terrorism will provoke more awareness and concerted action is not something one can guarantee.

One of the reasons for this is that while tarmac and terminal security have been intensified, access to terminals and satellite buildings is still too easy across the world.

At some international airports they do not even have armed police or checkpoints to deter militants.
In December last year, a bomb went off at Istanbul’s other strip, Sabiha Gocsen, killing a cleaner.

This coordinated assault wiped out 36 people and injured 147, many of them grievously. The toll could rise.
And whenever one of these terrifying incidents occur there is a pledge to consolidate the fight against terrorism and appropriate sounds ricochet from the corridors of power only to be eclipsed by individual nation agendas and the killers get away.

Until the next assault.

Even as the leaders of the world condemn the brutal act it does show how easy it is to target such facilities. These gunmen just strolled up to an entry point and began firing randomly into the crowd.

There is just too much movement of manpower and vehicles at an airport to ensure total security and if some entity as determined as the Islamic State is ready to die, there is nothing one can do, except upgrade the sharing of intelligence, heighten surveillance and see the battle as a global one. We say that we do, but do we?

For Turkey, once seen as the bridge of tranquility between the West and the Middle East and a nation for tourism and the good life, recent years have been traumatic. Between fighting the Kurds and taking on attacks from its common border with Syria, it bleeds.

There have been over a dozen planned bombings in civilian areas in Istanbul and Ankara and peace once taken as a Turkish given, is now in shards and the public wakes up to fear. Between the Kurdish separatists and the Islamic State, this nation is in peril.

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