Istanbul attack: What to do about the airports in terms of security?

After the terrorist attack in Brussels it is again airport attack, this time in Istanbul and some observers are saying that it seems the terrorist are learning quite fast how to overcome the extra layers of security. How should we react? With more security measures? With a different approach? Read few comments.

Margaret Gilmore, Senior Associate Fellow, Royal United Services Institute (RUSI)

Obviously this is a terrible day for Turkey and our hearts go out to the victims. The attack has all the hallmarks of Islamic State – they are similar in style to recent attacks in Paris and Belgium – armed gunmen, clearly with military training, who they blow themselves up. Islamic State is taking hits in Syria, Iraq and Libya and wants to send a message that it’s still in business. So it’s sending in trained militants from Syria to carry out attacks elsewhere. These are cowardly attacks, aimed at very soft targets, ordinary people, old and young, from every religion and walk of life. Islamic State claim to have a religious justification but in truth this attack like others, shows don’t care who they kill.  Islamic State, like Al Qaida, has a fixation with attacking transport infrastructure. Airports mean the victims come from many countries and increases the amount of publicity they are likely to get.

Security around international airports is already under scrutiny – and is always being reviewed – this will bring further review. But the truth remains, at some point there will be a place where people gather or queue to get through – so if you push the security to outside the airport terminal or buildings you are still likely to have a vulnerable area where there could be crowds – you may find you are just moving the problem. Nevertheless I can envisage a time when there are searches at the terminal doors – at the very least just ensuring people pass through a machine which would sound an alarm if some one were carrying explosives of a gun.

The more security, visible and undercover in airports the better – there is already a lot. There needs to be constant monitoring via CCTV and in person by people trained in observing human behaviour who can pick out the abnormal behaviour of a terrorist in the crowd. Technology must be up to date too – ensuring that weapons and explosives are increasingly difficult to bring in.

Turkey will without doubt be taking advice from experts globally to see what more can be done to keep people safe – but the truth is you can’t guarantee 100 percent security.

Christian KaunertProfessor of International Politics, Director of the European Institute for Security and Justice, University of Dundee

The terror attacks on Istanbul airport were absolutely terrible, really shocking, but possibly not so surprising. It has been a major transport hub for Daesh fighters for quite a while, which has been known by security services. But what can we do? Of course, more security measures are often the immediate response, as you can imagine. But the reality is that it is virtually impossible to keep security high enough to prevent this. Israel has some of the highest security measures at airports, but they are very onerous on travellers and it is doubtful that Western citizens would accept such high obstacles to travelling. So some more measures might be needed, but it might not be possible to prevent attacks like that. Smart counter-terrorism must therefore have a multi-prong approach, which includes security measures alongside more cooperation on intelligence, policing, criminal justice and societal approaches of anti-radicalisation, such as education and community engagement. Even then, we may not prevent all future attacks, but only reduce such attacks.

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