'Bombers can still buy tickets': Increased security measures likely aren't enough to prevent attacks at airports

Photo: OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images.

Security checkpoints at airports could present their own safety risks, and it’s difficult to prevent attacks on areas of airports that are accessible to the public.

Nearly 50 people died in an attack on Istanbul’s main airport on Tuesday after several suicide bombers detonated explosives in and around the airport. Ataturk is Turkey’s biggest airport, and the 11th busiest in the world.

After a similar attack on the Brussels airport earlier this year, experts talked to The New York Times about how additional security checkpoints at airports could be counterproductive and ineffective.

The Times noted that some airports have implemented additional checks such as screening passengers and baggage at airport entrances or checking vehicles as they arrive. But security lines at airport entrances could just end up creating more targets without succeeding at eliminating threats that might attack those congregated at checkpoints.

“There are countries where people have to present their passport and ticket at the airport entrance,” Norman Shanks, a former manager of airport security at Heathrow Airport near London, told the Times. “That is designed to keep out non-travellers, but it won’t keep out a bomber, because bombers can still buy tickets.”

Baggage drop-off areas, which are typically accessible to the public, could also become targets.

“If you look at the areas of the world that have experience with suicide bombers, they often tend to blow themselves up at security checkpoints, where there are lots of people standing densely packed together,” Philip Baum, managing director of Green Light, an aviation security consulting firm in London, told the Times. “If we start creating more queues of people to go through more checks, we just create new targets.”

It’s unclear so far who is responsible for the attack in Istanbul. US counterterrorism officials suspect the terrorist group ISIS (also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh) carried out the attack, but so far the terrorist group hasn’t claimed responsibility.

The suspects apparently detonated the explosives at the security check-in at the entrance to the airport’s international terminal as they exchanged gunfire with police, a Turkish official told Reuters.

Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said that at least one of the attackers opened fire on the crowd using a Kalashnikov rifle before detonating himself.

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