American tourists have been warned of imminent terrorist attacks in Turkey that could strike Istanbul and the coastal resort of Antalya. The US Embassy in Turkey issued the warning late on Saturday, 9 April, as the Mediterranean country reels from four suicide bombings in 2016 alone.
"The US Mission in Turkey would like to inform US citizens that there are credible threats to tourist areas, in particular to public squares and docks in Istanbul and Antalya," the statement, published on the embassy website, said. "Please exercise extreme caution if you are in the vicinity of such areas."
The warning came as Israel issued advice to its nationals in Turkey to leave "as soon as possible" in the face of immediate threats of terrorist attacks at tourist sites across the country. Turkey is a popular tourist destination for Israelis, despite strained diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Tourism terror attacks
This year has seen bloody attacks on public places by both Islamic State (Isis) and Kurdish separatist groups, who have acted against the government in Ankara amidst renewed conflict between the Turkish state and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). More than 170 people have been killed in terrorist attacks in Ankara alone.
On 19 March, a suicide bomber with links to Daesh, according to the Turkish authorities, struck Istanbul's Istikal Street killing four people – three of them Israelis – and injuring 39 others. In January another attack in Istanbul killed 10 in the heart of Sultanahmet, the city's tourist district.
The latest advice from Britain's Foreign Office as of 10 April said that with the exception of the southern city of Diyarbakir, Turkey was "generally safe to travel" but warned that the threat of terrorism remained high. It pointed out that both Daesh and the Kurdish Freedom Falcons (TAK) have explicitly threatened to strike tourist sites.
"It's increasingly likely that some attacks will also target western interests and tourism, as they did in Istanbul on 12 January and 19 March 2016. Further attacks are likely, could be indiscriminate and may target or affect places visited by foreigners," it said.
Turkey violence increase
The spike in violence in Turkey has come as the civil war rages across the border in Syria, where Turkey backs Islamist rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan restarted the conflict with the PKK in the south following elections in 2015 and military gains by Kurdish groups fighting in northern Syria loyal to the YPG.
Turkey's tourism industry has been hit not only by the conflicts but by strained relations with Russia, previously one of its largest tourism markets, since Turkish military shot down a Russian jet in December 2015. Turkey and Russia have found themselves on opposing sides of the Syria conflict since Moscow intervened on the side of Assad. Russian tourist arrivals to Turkey have plummeted by as much as 80% since the end of the last year.