March 14, 2016
TSG IntelBrief: Two Attacks and Two Terror Trends
• On March 13, a car bomb detonated in Ankara, Turkey, killing at least 27 people in the third such attack in months
• On the same day, an attack claimed by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb on several beachside resorts in Grand Bassam, Ivory Coast, left between 16-22 people dead
• The attacks are unrelated, but both stem from two trends that will continue in the near future as the reach of violent extremism expands
• Resorts and hotels in locations not known for extremism will face increasing risks; the security situation in Turkey is likely to deteriorate much further.
Places of work and play are now equal targets for terrorism. On March 13, two terrorist attacks, differing in style and location, are the latest indication that two trend lines will continue for the foreseeable future. The car bombing in Ankara, Turkey, that killed at least 27 people, and the armed assault on several resort hotels in Ivory Coast that killed at least 16, are connected, but not in the traditional sense. Rather, the two attacks show that hotels and resorts in tenuously stable locations are prime targets for terrorism, and that Turkey will continue to suffer an increase in attacks. These two trends stem from the overall rise in violent extremism across North Africa and the Middle East and the inability of states to effectively combat the threat. Most of the nations in this region are weaker or less stable than they appear or are assumed to be, including Turkey. The path from superficial stability to violent collapse is a short one, and terrorism accelerates the downward momentum.
For some time now, places of recreation have been at risk for unpredictable attacks. This is particularly true for places that are not specifically known for terrorism, but are in regions convulsed with conflict. Indeed, West Africa and North Africa are merging into a single expansive zone of concern. Last June, a gunman killed 38 people in a beach resort near the Tunisian town of Sousse; the so-called Islamic State claimed credit for the attack. In November 2015, gunmen affiliated with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb (AQIM) attacked the Raddison Blu hotel in Bamako, Mali, killing 18 people. In January 2016, AQIM attacked a hotel and restaurant in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, killing 30. The threat is not contained to West or North Africa; in January, gunmen from the al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab killed 20 people at a Mogadishu beach.
On March 13, AQIM struck again. Six gunmen attacked several resort hotels in Grand Bassam, Ivory Coast. The attack killed at least 16, including locals and a French national enjoying the beach and amenities. The Ivory Coast has avoided terrorist attacks of this level until now. The persistent threat from neighboring countries is now proving too much for the country to defy; aid from France and other countries will likely increase in the aftermath of the attack. Assaults on local resorts strike at the economy of countries such as Ivory Coast, hurting local employment and cutting off international tourism revenues.
Seemingly a world away, Ankara, Turkey, witnessed its third mass casualty terrorist attack in recent months. Just hours after the Ivory Coast attack, a car bomb exploded in the center of the Turkish capital, killing at least 27. Unlike in Grand Bassam, there were no immediate claims of responsibility for the Ankara attack, with early blame centering on Kurdish extremist groups, or perhaps the Islamic State. Turkey, a NATO member, is experiencing a rising threat from the civil war in Syria, not just from the Islamic State, but also from the fighting to the south which has reignited the dormant conflict between Ankara and Turkey’s Kurdish population. Turkey appears unable to address the terrorism threat in a manner that will not lead to greater open conflict, and so the threat will persist.
The two attacks in two very different locations have their own local sparks, but the fuel comes from the wider rise in violent extremism that is the inevitable result of persistent conflicts from Libya to Syria, and other points north and south. Most states in this zone are not sufficiently stable to dismiss concerns that terrorism could lead to greater instability and worse.
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