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Aug 10, 2015 | 12:31 GMT

3 mins read

Istanbul Attacks Highlight an Overlooked Threat

Istanbul was the scene of two terrorist attacks Aug. 10. In the first, a bomb attack and assault against a police station in the city’s suburban Sultanbeyli district reportedly resulted in the death of one police officer and two assailants. The attack began with the detonation of a car bomb near the station around 1:00 a.m. local time, which reportedly injured at least seven civilians and three police officers. Later, armed assailants attacked crime scene investigators at the site of the blast, killing the head of the bomb disposal team. Police killed two of the gunmen in the resulting firefight. Nobody has claimed responsibility for the attack, but the target selected and the method of attack were consistent with past operations by the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), a Marxist organization with deep roots in Turkey’s radical leftist circles.

Shortly after the armed assault against the police, a second team of armed assailants attacked the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul. The building, which was also attacked in 2008, has very robust security and thus was not likely to be damaged or breached in such an attack. No consulate personnel were injured, but one of the attackers, a woman, was wounded and captured. Reportedly, she is a member of the DHKP-C.

Though much of the news coverage of Turkey's anti-terrorism crackdown has been focused on the arrests of Islamic State and Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militants and on Turkish airstrikes targeting militants in Syria and Iraq, Turkish authorities have also arrested scores of DHKP-C members. The group has been resurging since the 2013 Istanbul protests, capitalizing on public sentiment against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and it is not surprising to see the group retaliate.

As exemplified by attacks such as the February 2013 suicide bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, the DHKP-C has a history of being more ambitious than capable — but it has also been persistent. In late March, two DHKP-C members stormed an Istanbul courthouse, taking prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz hostage. Following a prolonged standoff, Turkish authorities entered Kiraz's office after reportedly hearing gunshots. Kiraz and the militants were all killed in the subsequent exchange.

Turkey faces multiple terrorist threats, including from the Islamic State and the PKK. In the past day alone, in Turkey's southeastern Sirnak province, PKK militants reportedly killed four police officers with a mine attack on an armored police vehicle and, in a separate attack, killed a soldier after opening fire on a Turkish military helicopter. However, amid the focus on the PKK, the threat posed by the DHKP-C must not be forgotten.

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