Ankara attack, Turkey/ISIS

According to one well-informed source, a suicide bomber carrying multiple bombs attacked a peace march on 10 October in Ankara, killing up to 128 people and injuring some 400 others. The government said ISIS was most likely responsible for the attack, as it was a similar attack at Suruc in June.

Mourners and many respected and knowledgeable analysts suspect that Kurdish intelligence either perpetrated the attack or allowed it to happen. On Monday, the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) accused President Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party of exploiting the violence to generate a backlash against the Kurds so that they lose their seats in parliament.

In the June 2015 parliamentary elections, for the first time, a pro-Kurdish political party, the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), won 80 seats in the 550 seat parliament. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost its majority. The AKP was unable or unwilling to form a coalition government and the government called for new elections in November.

In a living systems analysis, it is clear that the bomber had significant support. Working backwards, he carried one bomb in a gym bag and wore a suicide vest to the march, both of which detonated. He was not stopped by security. He made his way to the march without detection or interference. He made or was provided two powerful bombs. This bomber had substantial support. This is a significant and uncharacteristic lapse in Turkish internal security.

This attack seems to have been intended to influence the forthcoming elections. Most political and security events in Turkey during the next month will be understandable primarily in the context of influencing the electoral outcome. For example, after the attack, the leading Kurdish insurgent group, the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), announced a ceasefire until the November parliamentary elections. This is counterintuitive in that usually the PKK goes on the offensive to avenge Kurdish deaths after an incident of this kind. The last thing President Erdogan expected was a PKK ceasefire after the bombing. The Kurds aim to expand their presence in parliament and the PKK is cooperating with the pro-Kurdish party, despite the losses from Saturday’s attack.

The easy scapegoat for the attack is ISIS. However, the Turkish government has tolerated, if not abetted, ISIS recruitment, supply and combat operations through and from Turkey. ISIS and Turkey have helped each other. In Turkey, the deadliest ISIS attacks targeted Kurds, but they failed to prevent the Syrian Kurds from consolidating control of Syrian Kurdish territory along Turkey’s border with Syria. Turkish air force attacks also primarily have targeted the Kurds, the most effective fighters against ISIS.