Wednesday 21 March 2018

Terrorists deliberately target holidaymakers

SHOCK: A woman reacts following the suicide bombing in tourist district in central Istanbul. Photo: Reuters
SHOCK: A woman reacts following the suicide bombing in tourist district in central Istanbul. Photo: Reuters
Jim Cusack

Jim Cusack

Irish tourists are facing an unprecedented level of threat abroad, from the overspill of conflicts in the Middle East and the growth of fundamentalist Sunni Islamism.

Last July's terrorist murders of Lorna Carty, from Robinstown, Co Meath, and Athlone couple Martina and Laurence Hayes at the popular seaside resort of Sousse in Tunisia underlined the threat facing tourists in the increasing wave of barbarism that is overtaking many African and Middle Eastern countries that had gained significant tourist business in recent years.

The three Irish victims were among 38 people shot dead by a lone Isil gunman as he calmly walked along the Sousse beach, shooting people indiscriminately.

Last weekend, a similar 'lone wolf' attack led to 18 deaths at the beach resort of Grand Bassam near the Ivory Coast capital Abidjan, an increasingly popular destination for Irish tourists in recent years. Sub-Saharan Africa is now one of the areas where Isil is focusing on destabilising economies dependent on tourist income, something that other terrorist groups, including the IRA, have attempted in the past.

In the mid-1970s and beyond, the IRA attempted to undermine the Northern Ireland economy by deliberately targeting tourist and business travel destinations in a series of bomb attacks on hotels and business locations. At its worst point, this led to a series of blast incendiary bomb attacks, culminating in the February 1978 attack on the La Mon Hotel in which 12 people were burnt to death.

The IRA also targeted tourist centres in Britain. In December 1983, six people were killed by an IRA bomb outside Harrods.

The Isil bombers and gunmen are following the example set by the IRA and many other terror groups of seeking to firstly destabilise their target countries by attacking their economies and then overthrow their governments.

The latest attack in Istanbul, in which there are Irish casualties, is being attributed to Kurdish terrorists carrying out revenge attacks for Turkey's aerial and artillery bombardments of Kurdish civilians who are being caught in the middle of the Turkish-Isil-Syrian conflict. Turkey is accused of attempting to crush Kurdish moves towards autonomy.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has advised those intending to travel that they should exercise "vigilance, avoid large public gatherings and all demonstrations and follow the instructions and advice of the local authorities."

Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco, countries which have become very popular with Irish tourists all now carry the department's health warnings to "exercise caution" and to avoid travelling to some parts of these countries which have seen outbreaks of Isil terrorism. These countries have placed strong security presences around their main tourist destinations.

Following last July's attack in Tunisia, the country stepped up its counter-terrorism operations but this did not prevent a further attack in Tunis last December, in which 10 people were killed.

The threat is not confined to Africa and the Middle East with concerns growing in Asia over the rising threat in Muslim countries particularly Indonesia.

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