Although specific details are still pending, initial reporting from the airport attack in Istanbul today indicates the assailants launched their attack in the public terminal areas of the airport – similar to what occurred at Brussels airport in March of this year, and Russia’s Domodedovo airport in 2011. This latest event fits the pattern of terror groups focusing on soft targets outside of security zones. In this case, early reporting indicates the attackers were actually confronted by security officers outside of the airport terminal, but still managed to carry out the operation.
Protecting an entire public transportation system in a manner that does not significantly impact free movement is extremely difficult. Current physical security measures undertaken at most airports – which focus almost entirely on stopping passengers from carrying a weapon onto a flight – will do little to thwart an attack against people waiting in a crowded airport lobby, where the body count could be just as high. With the summer travel season just beginning to take off, long lines at check-in counters or at security checkpoints will make for an inviting target.