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FORT LAUDERDALE— The Iraq war vet-
eran accused of killing five travellers and
wounding six others at a busy interna-
tional airport in Florida appears to have
travelled there specifically to carry out
the attack, authorities said Saturday,
but they don't know yet why he chose
his target and have not yet ruled out
Authorities said during a news confer-
ence that they had interviewed roughly 175
people, including a lengthy interrogation
with the cooperative suspect, 26-year-old
Esteban Santiago, a former National Guard
soldier from Alaska. Flights had resumed at
the Fort Lauderdale airport after the blood-
shed, though the terminal where the shooting
happened remained closed.
FBI Agent George Piro said Santiago spoke
to investigators for several hours after he
opened fire with a 9mm semiautomatic
handgun that he appears to have legally
checked on a flight from Alaska.
"Indications are that he came here to car-
ry out this horrific attack," Piro said. "We
have not identified any triggers that would
have caused this attack. We're pursuing all
angles on what prompted him to carry out
this horrific attack."
Investigators are combing through social
media and other information to determine
Santiago's motive, and it's too early to say
whether terrorism played a role, Piro said. In
November, Santiago had walked into an FBI
field office in Alaska saying the US govern-
ment was controlling his mind and forcing
him to watch Islamic State group videos, a
law enforcement official said.
Santiago had not been placed on the US
no-fly list and appears to have acted alone,
The attack sent panicked witnesses run-
ning out of the terminal and spilling onto
the tarmac, baggage in hand. Others hid in
bathroom stalls or crouched behind cars or
anything else they could find as police and
paramedics rushed in Friday to help the
wounded and establish whether there were
any other gunmen.
Bruce Hugon, who had flown in from In-
dianapolis for a vacation, was at the baggage
carousel when he heard four or five pops and
saw everyone drop to the ground. He said a
woman next to him tried to get up and was
shot in the head.
"The guy must have been standing over
me at one point. I could smell the gunpow-
der," he said. "I thought I was about to feel
a piercing pain or nothing at all because I
would have been dead."
Santiago had been discharged from the Na-
tional Guard last year after being demoted
for unsatisfactory performance. His brother,
Bryan Santiago, said Saturday that his broth-
er had requested psychological help but re-
ceived little assistance. Esteban Santiago said
in August that he was hearing voices, Bryan
Santiago said in Spanish on Saturday as he
stood outside his family's home. He said he
told his brother then to seek help.
"How is it possible that the federal govern-
ment knows, they hospitalise him for only
four days, and then give him his weapon
back?" Bryan Santiago said.
His mother declined to comment as she
stood inside the screen door, wiping tears
from her eyes. The only thing she said was
that Esteban Santiago had been tremendously
affected by seeing a bomb explode next to
two of his friends when he was around 18
years old while serving in Iraq.
When Santiago spoke of mind control at
the FBI office in November, agents ques-
tioned the agitated and disjointed man before
calling police, a law enforcement official told
The Associated Press. The official, who was
not authorised to discuss the case and spoke
on condition of anonymity, said Santiago was
then taken for a mental health evaluation.
Piro, who is in charge of the Miami field
office, said Santiago clearly indicated at
the time that he was not intent on hurting
Santiago, who is in federal custody, will
face federal charges and is expected to appear
in court Monday, Piro said.
It is legal for airline passengers to travel
with guns and ammunition as long as the
firearms are put in a checked bag — not a
carry-on — and are unloaded and locked in a
hard-sided container. Guns must be declared
to the airline at check-in.
Santiago arrived in Fort Lauderdale after
taking off from Anchorage aboard a Delta
flight Thursday night, checking only one
piece of luggage — his gun, said Jesse Da-
vis, police chief at the Anchorage airport.
At Fort Lauderdale, "after he claimed his
bag, he went into the bathroom and load-
ed the gun and started shooting. We don't
know why," said Chip LaMarca, a Broward
County commissioner who was briefed by
The gunman was taken into custody after
throwing his empty weapon down and lying
spread-eagle on the ground, one witness said.
"People started kind of screaming and
trying to get out of any door they could or
hide under the chairs," the witness, Mark
Lea, told MSNBC. "He just kind of continued
coming in, just randomly shooting at people,
no rhyme or reason to it."
The Fort Lauderdale gunman said nothing
as he "went up and down the carousels of the
baggage claim, shooting through luggage to
get at people that were hiding," according
to Lea. The killer went through about three
magazines before running out of ammuni-
tion, Lea said.
takes big hit after
ISTANBUL—The once bustling Grand Bazaar in Istan-
bul is astonishingly quiet. The shops and restaurants
in the city's trendy Istiklal Street are all but empty
of foreign customers and the hotels in the upscale
Nisantasi district are nearly deserted.
Turkey's economy is suffering in the face of a
string of extremist attacks — including the nightclub
massacre of New Year's revelers, most of them for-
eigners — and uncertainty following the failed coup
in July against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that
saw more than 270 people killed.
Tourism, a key component of the economy as well
as a substantial foreign currency earner, has taken a
hit — not least because Russian visitors have stayed
away in the wake of a diplomatic spat over Turkey's
downing of a Russian warplane in November 2015.
"2016 was a lost year for Turkish tourism," said
Cetin Gurcun, secretary general of Turkey's travel
agency association, TURSAB.
"It is impossible for Turkey to give up on tour-
ism, but the most important priority of the sector
is security," Gurcun added. "The first thing a tourist
looks for when choosing a destination is peace and
safety. Only then do they research service quality
There was a time when tourism in Turkey was red
hot, climbing from 10.5 million visitors in 2000 to
36.2 million people in 2015, making it the sixth-most
visited destination in the world. The sector earned
$31.5 billion in 2015. But that all came to a halt last
year, with a 30 percent drop in visitors, from 34.8
million in the January-November period in 2015 to
a little over 24 million for the same period in 2016.
Yasemin Pirinccioglu, general manager of the VIP
Event travel agency, said that foreigners who had
visited before were still returning. "But the people
who are planning to come for the first time to Turkey,
they're postponing their trips," she said.
Natalia Dubaltsava from war-ravaged eastern
Ukraine is among those who come to Istanbul reg-
"We make trips here anyway," she said. "There is
unrest in the world. It's a fact. People say the same
about our city, Dnepropetrovsk. We are close to the
front line, but it is calm there. Life is life. We decided
to go anyway."
Because of the economic downturn, the Turkish
Lira hit a record low in the first week of 2017, trading
around 3.60 per US dollar. Analysts expect it to
weaken further in coming months.
While the weaker currency could have some ben-
eficial economic effects — making it cheaper to visit
or invest in Turkey and helping the country's exports
— the drop makes the country poorer overall and
less able to pay its debts.
The security concerns are obvious in the economic
data. In the third quarter of last year, the drop in
tourism was the main cause for a 7 percent year-
on-year decrease in the sale of goods and services.
Consumer spending and investment have also plum-
meted since the summer.
Istanbul, the country's most popular tourist des-
tination for foreigners, has been the biggest target
Ten German tourists were killed in a suicide attack
in the heart of Istanbul's historic district on January
12, 2016. Other attacks in Istanbul include one in the
central Beyoglu neighborhood in March, as well as at
the city's main airport in June, where dozens died.
Hundreds of people eager to wave goodbye to
a tumultuous 2016 gathered at the popular Reina
nightclub in Istanbul for New Year's celebrations
only to become the first victims of 2017 when an
Islamic State gunman stormed the premises and
killed 39 people, mostly foreigners.
FBI: Airport gunman
travelled to Florida
Law enforcement personnel tell people to take cover
at Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport,
Friday, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Friday. AP PHOTO
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