Following attacks in Paris and Beirut in November last year, along with the shooting down of a Russian passenger jet, Daesh has stepped up its deadly operations outside of the claimed borders of its “Caliphate” in Iraq and Syria.
Reflecting tactics that have long been the preferred method of Al Qaeda, Daesh claimed responsibility for the bombing of the Sarinah shopping mall in Jakarta Indonesia on 14 January. The attack, which killed four and injured many others, took place near foreign embassies and the UN and hotels used by foreign tourists. Indonesia is not the most fertile recruiting ground for Daesh. Just an estimated 500 nationals have gone to Syria to join the group, from this a country with a 200 million Muslim population.
The Al Qaeda affiliate Jemaah Islamiyah is most well known in Indonesia. It was responsible for the 2002 Bali bombings which killed 200 people. An bomb attack in Istanbul on 12 January, which killed 10 people, the majority of them German tourists, was also claimed by Daesh. The Turkish Government has stood back while Daesh attempts to wipe out the Kurds in Northern Syria, and has prevented Kurds from crossing into Syria to defend fellow Kurds.
Yet after the Istanbul attack it released a statement saying: “We have determined that the perpetrator of the attack is a foreigner who is a member of Daesh... Turkey won’t backtrack in its struggle against Daesh by even one step … This terror organisation, the assailants and all of their connections will be found and they will receive the punishments they deserve.”
Whether this marks a decisive change in Turkey’s attitude to Daesh remains to be seen. Daesh is believed to have established trade links with Turkey; Turks are allowed to enter Daesh-controlled territory to sell goods, whilst Daesh is said to get $50 million a month from sale of oil from the oil fields under its control, routed through buyers in Turkey. The bombing targeted a square in the Sultanahmet district, close to the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. There was a clear intention of targetting tourists. Unlike Indonesia, bomb attacks in Turkey have become more frequent as the fighting in Syria has exposed Turkey’s continual persecution of the Kurds often in favour of Daesh and other Islamist groups who seek to take Kurdish territory.
The bombing in Suruc last year saw 33 Kurdish activists killed and a further 102 died at a peace rally called by the Kurdish HDP. President Erdoğan attacked foreign critics of the Turkish Government and not just opposition from within Turkey. Picking out the US academic and activist Noam Chomsky, Erdoğan said; “Pick a side. You are either on the side of the Turkish government, or you’re on the side of the terrorists.”
Two hundred militants were killed in Turkish retaliatory attacks on Daesh along Turkey’s border with Syria and Iraq.