A recent attack at Turkey’s largest airport that killed 42 people and injured 239 others has the signs of Daesh involvement, the director of the CIA said Wednesday.
John Brennan said that while there has not yet been a credible claim of responsibility for “the despicable attack” on Ataturk International Airport, it “bears the hallmarks of ISIL’s depravity.”
Three assailants armed with automatic assault rifles and explosive vests stormed the airport, but were unable to pass security checkpoints.
Turkish officials have pointed to Daesh as being responsible for the deadliest attack on Turkish soil since a bombing at a pro-Kurdish rally in November killed more than 100 victims. Daesh is also suspected of being behind that attack.
The militant group has refrained from claiming credit for most, if not all, of its attacks in Turkey, in part to avoid backlash from those it is seeking to recruit, Brennan said at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington.
“They carry out these attacks to gain the benefits from it, in terms of sending a signal to our Turkish partners,” he said, “and at the same time not wanting to potentially maybe alienating some of those individuals inside of Turkey that they may still be trying to gain the support of.”
Turkey is part of a US-led coalition of more than 60 nations intent on defeating Daesh in Iraq and Syria.
The coalition has claimed battlefield successes against Daesh, but US officials have warned that as Daesh faces defeats in its territories it will seek to inspire sympathizers to carry out more attacks.
Russia separately began an air campaign against what it calls "terror groups" operating in Syria last September, but critics, including the US, allege that its main focus has been fighting rebels opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
There is "no doubt" Moscow is partially motivated "out of concern about the growth of ISIS and terrorist forces there, whether it be ISIS, or Jabhat al-Nusra, which is al-Qaeda in Syria, they are determined to crush those forces," Brennan said.
"At the same time though, they need to recognize that these forces have grown because of the problems that have existed in Syria, in the Syrian government," he added.
Without Russia's "active" involvement in brokering a political transition there is "no way forward" to achieve the goal long-sought by the US and its allies, he said. "This is not going to be resolved on the battlefield.”
The White House said earlier Wednesday that President Barack Obama will meet with Turkish officials early next month during a NATO Summit in Poland.
By Michael Hernandez
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