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World

Terrorism in Turkey: threat from two sides

The bombing at Ataturk Airport is the most recent attack in a long line of lethal assaults Turkey has seen over the past year. The country is struggling to defend itself against Kurdish militants and Islamist terrorists.

Turkey is

still in shock

after three suicide bombers killed at least 41 people and injured 239 more at Istanbul's Ataturk International Airport on Tuesday. Among the victims were travelers from Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Tunisia, Uzbekistan, China, Iran, Ukraine and Jordan.

The attack was the latest in a string of violent terrorist acts that have rocked Turkey since 2015. On July 20, 2015, the terrorist group "Islamic State" (IS) first attacked in Turkey, killing 34 leftists and Kurds in the southern town of Suruc. Turkish forces retaliated by bombing IS strongholds in Syria.

IS' first bombing in Suruc triggered a spiral of violence. The activists were on an aid mission to Kobane, where months earlier Syrian Kurdish fighers affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) had defended against an IS onslaught with the help of US airstrikes.

The Turkish government's mute response to the "Battle for Kobane" - which became a source of nationalist pride for Kurds across the Middle East -raised sentiment among Turkish Kurds that the goverment was backing IS against their ethnic brethren in Syria.

The PKK responded to the Suruc attacks by murdering two police officers in retaliation for what it views as Turkish support for IS to counter the Syrian Kurds. Turkey's government had been in peace talks with the

militant PKK

for two and a half years in a bid to end more than three decades of fighting. But after the killing of the two police officers and subsequent Turkish retaliatory airstrikes, the peace was shattered. Ever since then, the country has been struggling with violence from two sides: IS terrorists and Kurdish militants.

No one has taken responsibility for the most recent bombing at Ataturk Airport, but Turkish authorities are blaming IS. The Islamist terrorists were definitely responsible for several other deadly attacks in Turkey since July 2015. Aside from the attack in Suruc, they also killed 102 people and injured 400 at a leftist and Kurdish peace rally in Ankara on October 10, 2015. Another IS suicide attack in Istanbul's heavily touristed Sultanahmet district in January killed 12 people, mostly German tourists.

Kurdish militants have attacked security forces on nearly a daily basis since peace talks broke down. Several hundred security forces have been killed in fighting since last summer. The government claims to have killed several thousand PKK militants.

Human rights organizations have documented more than 300 civilians killed by Turkish security forces in counter-terror operations in southeast Turkey.

The PKK often targets representatives of the Turkish state, like police headquarters or military convoys. Lately, the organization has changed tactics and upped bombings on state targets in urban areas, including Ankara and Istanbul. Dozens of civilians have also been killed in these attacks.

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