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A new, internal Turkish threat?

The Aug. 7 Armenian terrorist attack at Ankara's airport marks the first time gunmen belonging to the ''Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia'' (ASALA) launched an attack on Turkish soil, writes Monitor contributor Sam Cohen. The terrorist group has taken responsibility for the killings of more than 20 Turkish diplomats in various parts of the world.

Turkish investigators trying to determine what ASALA is up to expect to obtain important clues from one of the two Armenian gunmen wounded during the airport shootout. The second terrorist who seized some 20 hostages at the airport restaurant and spelled out his conditions (including Turkey's immediate recognition of ASALA and the Armenians' national rights) was killed when a special security unit stormed the place and freed the hostages. The three-hour siege took eight lives, including an American woman and a German engineer.

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Officials speculate the attackers were suicide commandos whose aim was to prove that the ASALA is able to strike at a target inside Turkey.

In previous action outside Turkey the ASALA sought to press demands that Turkey accept responsibility for ''massacres'' of Armenians in 1915, pay compensation, and recognize the Armenians' right to establish a state in eastern Turkey. The Turks have flatly rejected the demands, denying that any massacre took place.

Now, horrified by the airport carnage, many Turks are asking what Turkey should do in the face of this new internal threat. Many think in terms of counteraction, although the government's policy is not to respond to terror with terror.

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