Ankara, June 8, 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Manolis Kostidis
The best guarded area of Istanbul hit the perpetrators of the latest terrorist attack, which shook the city yesterday morning. It is the third terrorist attack in Istanbul in 2016, with the tourism in the country collapsing due to security problems.
At 8:36 the bus of the Turkish police that was carrying police special forces, arrived in the Beyazit district near Istanbul University, a few meters from the municipal building, and at that time the terrorists triggered the explosives in car that was parked there, using a remote controlled mechanism.
From the powerful explosion 11 persons lost their lives and 36 were injured. Six of the victims are policemen who were on the police bus.
Eyewitnesses say that the attackers had parked a booby-trapped vehicle at the spot, which they then detonated remotely when the police bus was passing by it.
The police bus overturned by the blast and suffered major damages, as well as the parked cars on the spot and the windows of the nearby shops.
Media were preoccupied with damages in the mosques
What’s strange was that the pro-government television networks for a long time showed the damage caused to the mosques of the region, the second day of Ramadan.
Police have arrested four suspects for questioning.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was in Istanbul, visited the wounded hospitalized and stated that “the battle against terrorists will continue until the end”, photographing the PKK with his statements.
No organization has claimed responsibility for the attack and the suspicions are directed at Kurds of the PKK and the Islamic State. What we observed is the speed of police and the municipality on cleaning the site of the explosion and the normalization of the situation in the city. Unfortunately, Turkey has gained experience in dealing with terrorist attacks, it has become a matter of everyday life for citizens and the authorities.
Twice the jihadists have hit tourist targets in the city. In January a suicide bomber belted with explosives killed 11 German tourists in Sultanahmet Square, a few meters from Hagia Sophia.
In March, another suicide bomber of the Islamic state had acted in Pera, killing four Jews tourists and injuring 14 others.
Tourism is collapsing
Since the elections of June 7, 2015 at which time the AKP had lost its self-reliance in parliament, until yesterday there have been five terrorist attacks in Ankara and Istanbul, and more in cities like Gaziantep, Suruç, etc, bringing the tourism of Turkey in the verge of collapse.
In Antalya, the area that hosts most tourists in the country, about 11 million, is recorded a 40% decrease in arrivals of tourists.
In Istanbul was recorded a reduction of 32% in overnight stays of tourists in April, while in May the drop in the arrivals of tourists compared to the same period of 2015 reaches 15.8%.
Hoteliers say the occupancy in the first four months fell by 15% and reached 49.8%, despite the fact that decreases in their prices exceeded 15%.
The closed market of Istanbul remains empty
We walked in the Closed Market of Istanbul a few hours after the terrorist attack and we saw few tourists. Few were Germans and French and most were from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, etc. The shopkeepers told us that the drop of tourism might appear to be 30 or 40%, but the situation is still manageable, due to the arrival from the Middle East, while they stress that “Europeans have almost disappeared”.
Hürriyet columnist Onur Basturk reports that tourists who come with cruise ships avoid setting foot in Istanbul. “From the ship Silver Spirit with 540 passengers, just 25 came off the ship to have a tour in Istanbul. While in another ship with 2000 passengers, the corresponding figure was only 117 passengers”!