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Ataturk attack raises fresh security concerns

By Wole Oyebade
01 July 2016   |   2:13 am
Tuesday’s terror attack at Ataturk International Airport, Istanbul, Turkey, will go down as one of the best coordinated deadly onslaught on air travellers, over which experts ...
Tony Tyler

Tony Tyler

Tuesday’s terror attack at Ataturk International Airport, Istanbul, Turkey, will go down as one of the best coordinated deadly onslaught on air travellers, over which experts are already raising fresh concerns on airport security.

Though Turkey is thousands of miles away, concerned stakeholders in Nigeria are calling for improved security beyond the current checks on passengers and luggage at airports nationwide.

Specifically, security experts are calling for improvement in intelligence gathering, enhanced screening on non-regular travellers and close monitoring on staffers around the airports.

It would be recalled that three suspected Islamic State suicide bombers opened fire and blew themselves up in Istanbul’s main airport Tuesday night, killing 42 people and wounding 239.

The attack on Europe’s third-busiest airport was the deadliest in a series of suicide bombings this year in Turkey, part of the United States-led coalition against Islamic State and struggling to contain spillover from neighboring Syria’s war.

Airport security consultant, Group Captain John Ojikutu (rtd) said that the development should indeed bother the Nigerian authorities given its fights against terrorism.

Ojikutu explained that security in any airport is in six layers, comprising of check-point screening, access control and luggage screening, all on the part of the airport. The other three are about intelligence, with one belonging to the regulatory authority and the other two, to airlines.

In the area of intelligence, he said it was incumbent on authorities to be on the lookout for possible connection between the Boko Haram sects and the Islamic States that is how suspected of the Ataturk attack.

He said though the government claims to have flushed the Boko Haram sect members out of the Sambisa forest, “it must also be known where they are.”

“Have they (Boko Haram) scattered into the country or they have gone elsewhere? Only intelligence gathering will be able to tell us that. We have to be very proactive along that line. If they have scattered, then at this level we must be looking for some certain people. So, the first line of defense is intelligence,” Ojikutu said.

He added that the access control at the airports also have to be right to enhance security.

“We must also begin to know those that are regular travelers and those that are not. The ones that are not regular, you have to conduct some kind of enhanced screening for them since you don’t know where they are coming from.

“Most airlines are just selling tickets without adequate background checks on the people they are selling to. By this time, I expect that the phone lines of everyone should have been collected and already linked to the National Data Intelligence so that you can have details on anyone you are having around the airport.”

The captain said further that beyond attention on passengers and their luggage, the airport staffers must also be brought under close scrutiny to quell insiders’ threats.

“Who is keeping watch over them? How are you recruiting people that work where the aircrafts are packed and where the luggage is and so on? Some of the things that are happening now are influenced by sabotage,” he said.

Experts are of the opinion that the attack bore similarities to a suicide bombing by Islamic State militants at Brussels airport in March that killed 16 people. A coordinated attack also targeted a rush-hour metro train, killing a further 16 people in the Belgian capital.

Islamic State militants also claimed gun and bomb attacks that killed 129 people in Paris last November

A terrorism expert at the Ankara-based Global Policy and Strategy Institute, Suleyman Ozeren, said: “In Istanbul they used a combination of the methods employed in Paris and Brussels. They planned a murder that would maximize fear and loss of life.”

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) described the attack as a murderous act on innocent air travelers and humanity.

IATA’s Director General and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Tony Tyler, however, said that the safety and security of passengers should remain the priority of all.

He said that the tragedy in Istanbul and the one in Brussels earlier this year show that there is a growing challenge for governments to keep people safe in the ‘landside’ parts of the airport.

“Moving people ‘airside’ more quickly can help to mitigate risk. The industry has a number of initiatives in place to achieve that aim and we are working with governments and airports to implement them,” Tyler said.

He added that Tuesday night’s attack was a broad attack on the shared humanity, “but terrorism will never succeed in reversing the interconnectedness of the world.”

“The desire of the human spirit to explore and trade will always triumph over suspicion and fear. That Istanbul airport is operating today is a testament to the resilience and determination of the Turkish people and the aviation industry.