Ankara bombing: Islamic State bites the hands that feed it

Attack on peace rally could be blowback for Turkey and Saudi Arabia’s support

Relatives mourn a victim of the twin bombings in Ankara. Photograph: Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images

Relatives mourn a victim of the twin bombings in Ankara. Photograph: Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images

 

Turkey’s blaming of Islamic State for Saturday’s bombing in Ankara points to a wider problem for countries that have supported the jihadists.

The attack was said to closely resemble a July suicide bombing that killed 34 people at Suruc, near the Syrian border, and a June bombing in which four died at a rally of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in the Kurdish majority city of Diyarbakir.

Turkish daily newspapers have reported that the elder brother of Abdurrahman Alagoz, the perpetrator of the Suruc bombing, could be one of the Ankara bombers. Alagoz (20) is an ethnic Kurdish Turk who spent six months with Islamic State in Syria last year and whose elder brother has followed suit.

The targets of all three bombings were rallies staged by supporters of the HDP, which helped deprive the ruling AK Party of its parliamentary majority in June’s election.

Arrested hundreds

Iraq

Although deemed a “terrorist” movement, IS is also considered an asset by the present Turkish government, which seeks to use all means to oust Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Ankara has permitted a constant flow through Turkey of foreign fighters to IS since the cult emerged in 2013 and has tolerated IS recruiters in Turkey’s major cities.

Turkish intelligence has been caught delivering arms to areas in northern Syrian under control of IS and the al-Qaeda- linked Jabhat al-Nusral. Meanwhile, Turkish businessmen have been involved in a lucrative import-export commerce with IS in Raqqa, the jihadists’ headquarters.

Saturday’s strike could constitute blowback for Turkey’s pro-IS policies as well as retaliation for occasional Turkish air strikes against IS sites in Syria used as cover for the air campaign against Turkish Kurdish rebels.

Saudi attacks

Saudi Arabia

Last week in the Yemeni port of Aden, IS carried attacked a hotel hosting members of the Saudi- backed Yemeni government, killing 22. It also mounted four co-ordinated suicide bombings in which 11 Yemeni and four UAE soldiers allied with Saudi Arabia died.

IS, which is also hostile to the Shia Houthi rebels fighting Saudi-supported troops, bombed a Shia mosque in Sanaa, killing seven.

Houthis, accuse Riyadh and its allies of sponsoring Sunni militant groups to counter the Houthis, who enjoy political support from Shia Iran, Saudi Arabia’s regional rival.

An offshoot of al-Qaeda, which seeks to overthrow the Saudi monarchy, Islamic State has also staged bombings in the kingdom. The latest took place in August at a mosque used by security forces, killing 15. Two previous bombings at Shia mosques in May killed 25 in total.

While security forces have been hit as punishment for supporting the monarchy, Shias have been struck with the aim of exacerbating sectarian divisions. Last November, IS commander Abu Bakr al-Baghdad called on Saudi IS members to target Shias. More than 2,000 Saudi Sunnis have joined IS and hundreds have returned home.

Wealthy Saudis and Kuwaitis, charities, and humanitarian organisations have been identified as major IS donors, and the governments of these countries are accused of sponsoring Sunni factions fighting in Syria and Iraq.

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