Wave of suicide blasts rocks Middle East

Sunday 03/07/2016
Lebanese women holding weapons in predominantly Christian village of Qaa

BEIRUT - The Middle East has been battered by a wave of suicide bombings, all of them claimed by the Islamic State (ISIS) or blamed on the jihadist group as it reels from major offensives against its self-proclaimed caliphate that spans parts of Syria and Iraq.

It was not clear if these operations were coordinated but they could mark the start of a wide-ranging re­taliation by ISIS for its reverses.

The bombings took place during Ramadan, the Muslim holy month during which ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani had called on the group’s adherents to launch attacks around the world.

No group has claimed responsi­bility for the deadliest attack, the June 28th triple bombing that killed more than 40 people and wounded 140 at Istanbul’s Ataturk interna­tional airport, one of the busiest in the world.

No claim was made either for an unusual series of suicide bomb­ings — eight in a single day — in the mainly Christian Lebanese town of Qaa near the Syrian border on June 27th.

That assault is puzzling because the town had no military signifi­cance and the bombers, who struck in two waves 18 hours apart, ap­peared to have little discipline. Sev­eral set off their devices — killing themselves — without causing any casualties.

The Qaa attacks killed five peo­ple and wounded 30 but, given the scale of the attack, the death toll should have been much higher.

Lebanese authorities blamed ISIS, which for four years has been waging a war along the country’s north-eastern border with Syria, where Hezbollah is aiding the Da­mascus regime.

The apparent ease with which the attackers were able to penetrate elaborate Lebanese defensive lines along the mountainous border triggered fears of a new jihadist of­fensive aimed at igniting sectarian rivalries in Lebanon.

Pro-Western Jordan is highly vulnerable, too. It was hit on June 21st by a lone bomber who struck a border post, killing six troopers and wounding 14. It was the only one of the recent bombings for which ISIS claimed responsibility.

The group has remained con­spicuously silent about the Istanbul carnage. Turkish authorities insist ISIS was behind the coordinated attack, which bore gruesome simi­larities to recent attacks in Paris and Brussels.

“If ISIS is indeed behind the at­tack… this would be a declaration of war,” observed Turkish analyst Soner Cagaptay of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “Tur­key’s vengeance will come down like rain from hell.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had long turned a blind eye to jihadist infiltration of Syria through Turkey but in recent weeks has been cracking down on ISIS.

In Yemen, an ISIS affiliate claimed a wave of attacks in the southern port of Mukalla on June 27th that killed 43 people. Security officials said two suicide bombers and other militants carried out at least seven simultaneous attacks, an ISIS sig­nature.