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Authorities in Turkey are investigating Tuesday’s deadly attack on Istanbul’s main international airport. The Washington Post’s Hugh Naylor gives us the latest from Istanbul.
- Hugh Naylor Beirut-based correspondent, The Washington Post, covering the Istanbul airport attack
MS. DIANE REHMBut first, an update on the latest out of Turkey after this week's attack at the Istanbul Airport that killed dozens and wounded hundreds. Joining us from Istanbul, Hugh Naylor, foreign correspondent for The Washington Post. Hugh Naylor, what do we know as to who may have been responsible for the bombing?
MR. HUGH NAYLORWell, there's very little information about exactly who these individuals identified today by Turkish authorities as the alleged culprits of the bombings, but the Turks are saying that three men who blew themselves up at the airport on Tuesday, killing 43 people and wounding more than 200, were Russian, Uzbek and Kurds nationals. Now, I think all indications are that the group behind the attack is the Islamic State.
MR. HUGH NAYLORThe Islamic State has not taken responsibility formally for this act and it hasn't done so for a number of recent bombings in Turkey. Many people consider to be the work of the Islamic State, first and foremost the Turkish government. Right now, it's all a big unclear and I think Turkish authorities are, you know, partaking in a very rigorous investigation to get behind exactly who carried out these bombings.
REHMIt's been reported that the bombers actually travelled to Syria before the attacks. What do we know about that?
NAYLORIt's all kind of unconfirmed information so far so it's possible. I mean, up until recently, the border between -- the very long 500 mile border between Turkey and Syria was just porous and hundreds, if not thousands, of people traversed it every day. We're talking refugees and we're talking militants such as those participating with the Islamic State so it's very possible. But I don't think that it's clear yet. I don't think we'll have a clear idea until Turkish authorities sort of reveal more about this case and then there are more leaks about what's going on.
REHMGiven the nationalities of the three who apparently carried out the bombing, what does that mean for Turkey vis a vis Russia?
NAYLORIt's still unclear. Now, there's a bit of a rapprochement going on between Turkey and Russia. As you know, what lays between the two countries kind, you know, they came to breaking point after a Turkish war plane destroyed a Russian war plane that was flying over Syria, that was in November, Vladimir Putin announced, the Russian president, announced a series of sanctions against Turkey and basically ordered Russian tourists out of Turkey. There are, you know, hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of Russian tourists who came to Turkey.
NAYLORThat was a big blow to the Turkish economy. But, you know, Erdogan, the president of Turkey, recently apologized over that incident in November and relations are improving. So it's unclear what all this will mean for relations between the two countries, but the relations are on the mend and it does appear that there may be room for intelligence coordination and sharing in this case so possibly, you know, they could use this incident to cooperate further, the two countries.
REHMHugh, we know that the Turkish government detained more than a dozen people in anti-ISIS raids last night. What do we know about the 22 or so people who were detained?
NAYLORStill, I think it's all, you know, Turkish authorities are keeping a tight lid on the information that they're gleaning from these individuals and they're carefully controlling this information so it's still difficult to know, I think, you know, we're looking into it and I think in the coming days, there'll be a clearer picture as to who these people are. You know, I think there's broadening concern among Turkish citizens that there are possibly a large number of Turkish nationals who either sympathize with or are, in fact, members of the Islamic State.
NAYLORI think that's a concern here for a lot of people. And then, of course, there's also concern -- there are also concerns here about the large number of Syrian refugees. There are almost 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey. And Turkey has, despite problems, done what many human aid workers say is a pretty good job of caring for these people. That's a huge community, foreign community, to have to keep an eye on and there is also concern that the Islamic State could be exploiting people within this large group of Syrian refugees and using them for attacks or some other purpose.
NAYLORThere's concern about that. Sorry.
REHMAnd if, indeed, this was ISIS responsible for this and perhaps more attacks, might this push Turkey into taking an even larger role in the battle against ISIS?
NAYLORYou know, it could, but Turkey is facing mounting challenges now because of the Syrian civil war and the various outside actors that are backing the local actors in that war, namely the United States. The United States is allying with a Kurdish-led group in Northern Syria that is very effective in fighting the Islamic State, but Turkey is angry about that cooperation because Turkey sees that Kurdish group as having links with Kurdish separatists in Turkey, who Turkey considers to be a terrorist organization.
NAYLORSo, you know, getting more deeply involved for Turkey is seen my many Turkish officials as having lots of political costs and they view this conflict in Syria very differently from the United States or Russia. So it's unclear at the moment.
REHMIt would seem because critics have really faulted Turkey for its reluctance to take the fight to the extremists themselves, I just wonder whether this horrific action at the Istanbul Airport might, in fact, change some minds.
NAYLORCan you say that again? Sorry, the line cut out.
REHMI was just wondering where the terrific killing, the numbers of those dead and wounded at the Istanbul Airport, might, in fact, change Turkish authorities attitudes toward ISIS and toward taking a bigger role.
NAYLORIt's certainly possible. I think, yeah, those attitudes and such change has been happening for some time now. I just think that how that role is played by Turkey and how Turkey views itself as playing that role, that's the question. And I think it's still unclear what Turkey's response to this incident and to the changing sort of political winds in the region will be for a variety of reasons that I can get into if you have time on your show.
REHMJust a few more seconds, if you would, Hugh. I'm wondering about President Erdogan's comments.
REHMAre you there?
REHMOh, dear. I think we have lost Hugh Naylor. He's foreign correspondent for The Washington Post and we thank him for joining us from Istanbul this morning. Just to let listeners know, we are also keeping an eye on what is happening here at the Andrews Air Force Base where there is report of an active shooter. Short break, we'll be right back.
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