This Istanbul & Brussels Photo Mixup Is So Sad Because It Shows These Attacks Happens Too Often
Once again, there has been an attack on a civilian airport in which suicide bombs were set off inside the building. Often with these events, even before news organizations have time to report the story, photos are uploaded to Twitter and fly around the world, being retweeted, shared, and quoted. That's exactly what happened Tuesday after two suicide bombers detonated themselves outside Istanbul's Atatürk Airport. Except there was one catch.
This Istanbul photo that was widely shared was actually from the Brussels Zaventem airport attack in March, even though it was being circulated as an image from the Istanbul attack. The error is unfortunate, but more than that, it's sad. Terrorist attacks like this have become so common that we can't tell them apart anymore.
The aftermath of both attacks are strikingly familiar. Ceiling tiles fell, luggage was strewn about. Travelers in Istanbul reported hiding behind check-in counters just as videos showed in Brussels. Videos captured the blasts, the sudden flash of light followed by pandemonium and chaos. Passengers stranded with luggage carts, fleeing from the airport. Other than the airport architecture and signage, you'd have few ways to tell these two attacks apart.
As for the attacks themselves, the main difference is where in the airport the bombs went off. Turkish officials have painted a conflicting picture, but it seems the Istanbul attackers were stopped at the entrance to the departures hall. Atatürk Airport has a security checkpoint with metal detectors and x-ray machines at the entrance to the building in addition to a standard security check before the departure gates; Brussels did not.
Istanbul Atatürk is now Europe's third-busiest airport, having bumped out Frankfurt. It trails just London's Heathrow and Paris' Charles de Gaulle.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called on other Western nations to join him in the fight against terrorism, claiming that the Istanbul attack could have easily happened in any other city. In his statement, Erdoğan said:
The bombs that exploded in Istanbul today could have gone off at any airport in any city around the world. Make no mistake: For terrorist organizations, there is no difference between Istanbul and London, Ankara and Berlin, Izmir and Chicago or Antalya and Rome.
There's no official word on what group is behind the Istanbul attack, but it wouldn't be hard to believe that this latest Istanbul attack was also ISIS. Syria is just over a porous border to the southeast and many recent bombings in Turkey have been their doing. A senior Turkish official told the Associated Press that initial indications point to ISIS; they were behind the cell connected to the Paris attacks that went on to carry out the bombings in Brussels.
Despite the overwhelming similarities, the saddest difference may be the rising Istanbul attack death toll. Thirty-one people have already been confirmed dead, and more are expected to be added to the list. The Brussels attacks killed 32 but were split between Zaventem airport and the Brussels metro. In Istanbul, even though the airport's entrance was better protected, it didn't keep passengers safe — a chilling realization for travelers at airports across the world.