UPDATE: In Burkina Faso, at least 23 people from 18 countries were killed after suspected Islamist militants attacked a hotel this weekend, say Burkina Faso government officials.
They said 126 hostages -- some wounded -- were rescued Saturday at the Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou. Islamic jihadists were also killed during the fight between terrorists and government forces.
Terrorist attacks last week in Indonesia, Turkey, Cameroon, Pakistan and other countries display the growing reach of terror groups.
The Islamic State terror group took credit for the attacks in Istanbul and Jakarta, Indonesia. The attacks left 10 German travelers dead in Istanbul, and seven dead, in Jakarta. That included five attackers.
In Pakistan, 15 people were killed Wednesday in a suicide bombing near a medical clinic claimed by IS-related Taliban. In Cameroon, 13 were killed Wednesday in a market bombing claimed by Boko Haram.
The goal of the terror groups is to generate fear across the globe. The attack in Indonesia is a big display that the Islamic State has expanded to Indonesia. Indonesia is the largest Muslim country.
However, the bombings there could have been worse. Indonesian officials said a large bomb and five smaller devices did not explode. Officials said that showed attackers wanted to cause more destruction than they did, like the Paris attacks in November 2015 that killed 130.
“Thank God it didn’t happen,” said Anton Charliyan, an Indonesian National Police Major General.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo urged people to stay calm.
“This act is clearly aimed at disturbing public order and spreading terror among people,” the president said. “The state, the nation, and the people should not be afraid of, or be defeated, by such terror acts.”
In Turkey, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said his country took strong action after the attack Tuesday near Istanbul’s famous Blue Mosque. Davutoglu said Turkish bombing along the border with Syria and in northern Iraq killed 200 Islamic State militants.
The terrorists targeted areas in Istanbul and Jakarta that are popular with Western tourists. There are two likely reasons. One, to kill Westerners. And two, to discourage travel. That would hurt their economies.
James Gelvin, co-director of UCLA’s Center for Near Eastern Studies, told VOA that Turkey was chosen because it is close to the Syrian border. Also, he said, Turkey backs U.S. military operations against the Islamic State, and recently joined the fight.
The Islamic State terror group has recruited Indonesians who speak Malay. They are brought to Raqqa, Syria, to train for terror activities. Raqqa is the unofficial capital city of the IS terror group, said Gelvin.
“ISIS was interested in using them not only as fighters, but to attract more Indonesians to their territory," Gelvin said.
Debate on approach to combat IS
In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama defended his balanced approach to the Islamic State fight.
“Priority No. 1 is protecting the American people and going after terrorist networks,” Obama said. “Both al Qaeda and now ISIL pose a direct threat to our people, because in today’s world, even a handful of terrorists who place no value on human life, including their own, can do a lot of damage. … We have to take them out,” he said.
“But as we focus on destroying ISIL, over-the-top claims that this is World War III just play into their hands. Masses of fighters on the back of pickup trucks, twisted souls plotting in apartments or garages -- they pose an enormous danger to civilians; they have to be stopped. But they do not threaten our national existence,” he said.
Republicans say the president’s strategy is not working. They point to a growing number of deadly Islamic State attacks, including the killing last year of 14 by two IS terror group sympathizers in San Bernardino, California.
“Our nation does not need lofty words,” said Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona. “It needs bold action. Our nation does not need abstract calls to hope. It needs a concrete strategy to confront the challenges of a more dangerous world. Unfortunately, it appears these tasks will be left to the next president.”
In addition to the attacks in Turkey and Indonesia, the Islamic State took credit for these other attacks during the first two weeks of 2016:
- On January 8, gunmen carrying an ISIS flag opened fire on a Red Sea resort in Egypt. At least two tourists were injured.
- On January 4, militants linked to the Islamic State tried to capture an oil port along Libya’s coast. At least seven people were killed.
- On January 11, a teenager attacked a Jewish teacher with a machete in Marseille, France. Police said the teenager told them he acted for God and the Islamic State. The teacher survived.
- On January 2, seven Indian military workers were killed during an attack on an air base in India. India blames the Jaish-e-Mohammad terror group, based in Pakistan.
Bruce Alpert researched and wrote this story for VOA Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.
Words in This Story
display -- v. to put something where people can see or notice it.
clinic – n. place where people get medical help
generate – v. to produce or cause something to be produced
disturbing -- v. to worry or upset someone
discourage – v. to make someone less determined, hopeful, or confident
recruit – v. to find suitable people and get them to join their cause or group
pose – v. to create a problem or threat
handful – n. an amount that you can hold in your hand
strategy – n. a plan or method for achieving a particular goal
sympathizer – n. a person who feels or shows support for or approval of something
lofty – adj. rising to a great height
abstract – adj. relating to or involving general ideas or qualities rather than specifics
task – n. a job for someone to do
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