Increased security measures in Turkish tourist areas

ISTANBUL – In tourist areas of Turkey extra security measures are being taken against attacks by Kurdish separatist movement PKK, according to several Turkish media on Friday. That is one of the outcomes of deliberations between the Turkish government and the army on Thursday. Exactly which measures will be taken has not been revealed.

The security measures are being intensified after last Monday’s attack on a bus carrying military personnel left six people dead. The attack was aimed at a military target and took place far away from tourist areas, but it increased the fear that the PKK is taking its fight to the cities. Traditionally tourist areas are also targets: in former terrorist attacks in, for example, the regions of Izmir and Antalya, dozens of tourists lost their lives over the last thirty years.

Ertugrul Karaoglu, spokesman for the Association of Turkish Travel Agents, stresses that so far the PKK has been focusing on military targets, but he also admits that the tourist industry is sensitive to attacks. ‘We are in touch with the police and local authorities all the time, and of course the association itself also takes measures to make sure hotels and other tourist places are safe.’

With disgust he thinks back to security arrangements made about twenty years ago, when there were patrols on the street by police with with machine guns. ‘That will definitely not happen this time. Besides the fact that the threat is not so high as in those days, we now choose measures that don’t bother tourists and that don’t make them feel uncomfortable.’ He means for example police in civilian clothes, security checks at entrances of big hotels and private security companies that keep an eye on the surroundings, often undercover.

The PKK earlier this month announced the end of a cease-fire that started last year in April. It was not a peaceful period, but the PKK claimed only to fire in self-defence. For some weeks now armed attacks have been carried out again, mainly on army posts in remote areas.

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