In the last month and a half alone, 7 October 2015 to today, six suicide bombings, claimed by the Islamic State (IS) have occurred.
A female IS suicide bomber detonated herself October 7 in a mosque in Sana’a, Yemen, killing seven and leaving three wounded. Just three days later, two suicide bombers blew themselves up near Ankara Central Station in Turkey, where a “Labour, Peace, and Democracy” rally was taking place. In the deadliest attack on Turkish soil in modern history, 102 were killed and 508 were injured. Two weeks later, Najran, Saudi Arabia experienced an attack 26 October. An IS bomber detonated himself in a Shia Al-Mashhad mosque, killing two men and wounding another 19. The next day, seven people died and over 19 were injured in Baghdad, Iraq, after a suicide bombing inside a refreshments tent serving Shiite pilgrims. Weeks later, two suicide bombers performed 12 November a coordinated attack in a busy open-air market and residential neighborhood in southern Beirut, Lebanon leaving 43 dead and 240 wounded. And the most recent attack, on 13 November happened in Paris, France. Several attacks happened nearly simultaneously across central Paris, a restaurant shooting, and suicide bombings at a rock concert and football stadium. The attack, not even a year after the Charlie Hebdo shooting (7 January 2015), left another 129 people dead and 352 wounded.
The world is shaken, scared, and angry. One cannot help but shudder at the thought of such chaos and carnage happening in such innocent locations: a peaceful rally, a neighborhood street, a restaurant, or a football stadium. These places are supposed to be mundane, average places visited in everyday life. These attacks have perverted and distorted our sense of safety. We tell ourselves not to live in constant fear, but in the recent weeks, it is impossible turn on the news without being shocked at the newest atrocity that has occurred.
Some have said that these attacks have happened because of the ‘porous’ borders of France and Lebanon. But, as I wrote in my previous article, Moving Parts: A Look at Where Islamic State Gets its Man and Machine Power From, nearly every country in the Western Hemisphere has someone to worry about.
In the Turkish suicide bombing, one of the identified bombers was Yunus Emre Alagoz. He was the owner of a suspected Islamic State (IS) gathering place and also the older brother of Seyh Abdurrahman Alagoz, a suicide bomber who killed 33 pro-Kurdish activists in the town of Suruc on 20 July 2015. Both of the brothers are well known to Turkish media: they operated a café called the ‘Islam Tea House’ in Adiyama, a southeastern city in Turkey considered a nexus of Islamic State activity. Reporters and Turkish publications claim they have been ‘sounding the alarm’ on these suspected IS militants for more than two years.
Radikal, a Turkish newspaper, says that it has been covering radical Islamic militants in the city of Adiyaman since 2013. Columnist Ezgi Basaran, in correspondence with Bloomberg, explains that writers like himself have written these sorts of stories over and over, ‘We have lists of their names. Does the state not know what we know?’ Turkish media and reporters have written extensively about these bombers in the press, and criticize no preemptive action taken by the Turkish National Intelligence Agency.
In Beruit, there was a failed suicide attempt. The man, a Lebanese national, from Tripoli, Lebanon, told investigators he was an IS recruit and the three other attackers arrived with him from Syria two days before the attack.
Although not much is known about the identities of the Paris attackers, one of the perpetrators was recently identified by his fingerprints. Omar Ismail Mostefai (29), was a French national. He was known by authorities as a petty criminal, but was not thought as such a threat as a potential terrorist. His father and brother have both been arrested as of 15 November as potential suspects and/or accomplices.
These latest attacks illustrate a larger issue: Islamic radicals are being recruited in plain sight. The recent bombing in Ankara, Turkey is not the only incident where the bomber was a well-known threat before their attack. Cherif Kouachi had his name in the New York Times and was known by French police before attacking 7 January 2015 the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Additionally, the man who held seventeen hostages in an Australian café in 2014 had been previously interviewed by the Australian Security Intelligence Organization several times before he attacked the café in Sydney, leaving three people dead.
Even the most recent attack in Paris, France, has people wondering why more precautions are not put into place. There are some defensive remarks made about not being able to preemptively arrest suicide bombers. Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in an interview on national television just two days after the Ankara attack that Turkey was aware of potential threats, but couldn’t do much about them. The issue is, according to Davutoglu, that although Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency is aware of those who might carry out suicide bombings, ‘as a country with rule of law, you can’t arrest them until the act.’
Critics, concerned citizens, and mourning friends and families of the deceased argue that not being able to arrest suicide bombers does not justify the lack of precaution.