Ankara and Berlin attacks: The preview of terror to come? – by Maria Chr. Alvanou

The evening of Monday December 19, 2016 has shown the world the potential of terror for the new year to come. Two attacks, one in Ankara and one in Berlin- very different but equally serious- are the manifestation of the decisiveness and audacity of the jihadists.

  1. The attack in Ankara was a targeted assassination. Unlike the “blind” hits carried out usually by the islamist network, in this case the perpetrator wanted specifically to kill a certain person, the russian ambassador Andrey Karlov and he achieved it very easily. The attack took place during a period of high alert, since two terror attacks had taken place in Turkey (in Istanbul and Kayseri), attributed to kurdish operatives. Despite that and state declarations about fighting terrorism, Monday’s attack happened during an art exhibition, where there seemed to be no efficient security measures. What a video that is been circulated by the media shows, is how the russian ambassador is shot from behind and then the perpetrator is shouting the religious motto “Allahu Akbar” and calls for Aleppo and Syria not to be forgotten. The shooter’s identity is really puzzling. A young man, who was a police officer and came from the area of Aydin. He was killed by the turkish law enforcement forces that handled the incident, so the option of interrogating him in order to get further details upon the motive of his actions is impossible. Relatives of him (his mother and sister) are reported to be questioned, but already with the neutralization of the perpetrator a big piece of the puzzle is missing. Was the perpetrator (identified as Mevlut Mert Altintas) already radicalized when he entered the police force and acted all this time as a “sleeper”, waiting to attack? Did he radicalize after his entrance in the turkish police force? Were there any indexes in his behaviour that could have alerted the authorities and prevent his actions? Did he act alone as a “lone wolf”, or was he in contact with other persons about planning this attack? Can we talk about jihadist cells insideTurkey ready to continue with further attacks? We will wait to see wether Daesh will directly refer to this attack and claim responsibility. We will wait also to see how this attack will affect the sensitive russian-turkish relations and shape further involvement of Russia in the Syrian case. What we won’t have to wait for- because it is evident- is to see if turkish counter-terrorism measures are able to contain the situation in the country. Strong preventive, security measures in a location where the russian ambassador is giving a speech (in a period of intense russian involvement in the war in Syria, following the strikes in Aleppo) were an elementary precaution. This was unfortunately not the case, as the terrorist carried out his attack quite easily. Turkish counter- terrorism must shape up again quickly to reach its previous top state, because it does not have any other choice in order to secure the country.
  1. The attack in Berlin was a “blind” one, like in Nice, like the ones Daesh has been perpetrating for some time now in european soil. Using a truck and driving it against people gathered in crowds is a “Middle East terror technique”, a methodology the organization uses. Daesh has already claimed responsibility and as it is reported that the driver has been arrested, we expect more information in due time about his identity. We know there was a co-driver who got killed during the crash and that the vehicle had polish plates. Additionally, this attack took place in Germany (advertised as a target for a long time now), during Christmas preparations and in a Christmas market (one can understand the religious connotation of the attack). Everything looks like a standard, expected Daesh plan and Germany was in alert state. Despite the above alert state (the country’s authorities handled promptly the aftermath in various levels), the attack unfortunately took place and caused the loss and injury of human lives. We know by now the methods employed by Daesh and situational prevention measures (for example: material obstacles like the ones used outside embassies) should have been considered, so that vehicles cannot approach such Christmas markets. We cannot stop terrorist minds, but we can make their work more difficult. No, we cannot- at least now- eradicate the phenomenon of islamist terror, but we can secure certain locations from attack and save lives. Displacement (choice and activity against other targets in different ways) will occur most probably, but this is how the struggle against any type of crime goes on: we address criminal ways, new ways develop, we address them too and so on.

Jihadists have given us a severe blow in Ankara and Berlin. With “Middle East methods” or with targeted assassinations (the “old style”, conventional hits we did not associate their network with) they have set the trend for 2017. Terrorism will continue and it is telling us so. It is very difficult and complicated to battle its origin. It will take time and we cannot be sure about the result. What countries can do now is at least take efficient measures to secure high risk targets. This must be the new year resolution of counter terrorism authorities.