Possible link to car bomb in Turkey

Wed, Aug 22, 2012, 01:00

ISTANBUL – Turkey is investigating possible Syrian links to Monday’s car bomb attack near its southeastern border, officials said yesterday, underscoring fears that the conflict in Syria is fuelling instability on its own territory.

A car blew up close to a police station in the industrial city of Gaziantep, about 50km (30 miles) from the Syrian border, late on Monday, killing nine people including a 12-year-old.

No group has claimed responsibility, but ruling party officials in Turkey blamed the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Kurdish militants designated as a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

Turkey fears that the PKK, which has waged an insurgency in the southeast for almost three decades, is exploiting chaos in Syria to expand its influence and has accused Syrian president Bashar al-Assad of supplying it with arms.

Firat News, a website close to the PKK, carried a statement from the group denying involvement in the attack, which took place during the Eid al-Fitr festival marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. But security sources believe Kurdish separatists were responsible.

“Another aim of this attack was to send a message about Turkey’s foreign policy. The attack was planned through the co-operation of the Mukhabarat [Syrian intelligence] and the PKK,” Samil Tayyar, a MP for Gaziantep from Turkey’s ruling AK Party said.

Foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu was more cautious, saying that, while possible Syrian links to Monday’s attack were being investigated, there was no concrete information so far.

“If there is a similarity, the methods and mentality of the terrorist organisation and Bashar al-Assad’s forces are alike in killing civilians during Eid al-Fitr,” he told reporters in Ankara.

Ankara initially cultivated good relations with Assad’s administration but relations have deteriorated since the uprising against him began 17 months ago.

Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan has become one of Assad’s harshest critics and has raised the possibility of military intervention in Syria if the PKK becomes a threat there.

“It’s known that the PKK works arm-in-arm with Syria’s intelligence organisation al Mukhabarat. Assad is inclined to view Turkey’s foe, the PKK, as a friend,” AK Party deputy chairman Huseyin Celik told the Hurriyet newspaper.

In an interview with a Turkish newspaper in July, Assad denied that Syria had allowed the PKK to operate on Syrian territory close to the frontier. But Turkey suspects a Syrian Kurdish movement, the PYD, of having links with the PKK. Analysts believe Assad let the PYD seize control of security in northern Syria to prevent locals from joining the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA).– (Reuters)