News / Middle East

Turkish Opposition Says Government Ignoring Presence of al-Qaida

Dorian Jones
ISTANBUL — Turkish political opposition members are claiming that Turkish authorities are turning a blind eye to Islamic militants based in Turkey who are crossing over the border to join the opposition fighting the Assad government in Syria.

Mehmet Ali Edipoglu is parliamentary deputy for the main opposition Peoples Republic Party, for Hatay -- the main city in the Antakya province that borders Syria.

While he says he has no complaints about the Syrian rebels operating from the region, the past few months there has been a worrying change in the influx of new fighters.

Edipoglu says militants who are coming from Libya, Chechnya, Afghanistan, and from various countries in Africa are placed in Hatay and they say they are here to fight for Syria, to make a Jihad and bring Sharia, he says.   He says they all openly say that they are al-Qaida and there have been incidents of small fights between these people and Hatay locals. Edipoglu says many are now getting to guns to protect themselves and he says he spoke to the governor and police many times and they tell him they are keeping these people under control.

The population of the  Antakya region is a complex mix of Sunnis , Christians and Alawites. The region also has a strong secular population.  

During a visit to Istanbul earlier this month,  U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton voiced concern over the presence of radical islamic elements amongst the Syrian rebels. and in particular potential links to al-Qaida.  

"We worry about terrorists, PKK and Al-Qaida and others taking advantage of the legitimate fight of the Syrian people," Clinton said.

Despite that concern being discussed during meetings this week between Turkish and U.S. officials in Ankara,  Edipoglu says Turkish authorities are turning a blind eye to radical Islamic groups within the Syrian rebels who are basing themselves in Turkey.

Edipoglu says the recent big clashes are taking place around the Turkish border with Syria and he says  every day, what he calls al-Qaida militants are picked up from their homes and put on the buses in Antakya.  He says every day and night, 40 or 50 mini buses leave for Syria and they fight there and come back and this happens every day and he says state authorities are providing the buses, even escorting them.

But the Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal denies that any such support is being given to any of the Syrian rebel groups.  He says there is concern about the threat of al-Qaida elements entering Syria, but says there is not too much Turkey can do.

"We don't have any hard evidence about any kind of passage from Turkey or any other countries, otherwise we would of course be willing to take the necessary steps to avoid any kind of escalation.  But its a 900 kilometer border, of course our border authorities are doing their best," Unal said.

Turkey has had a bitter experience with al-Qaida in the past.

In 2003, an al-Qaida faction set off four van bombs across the city of Istanbul targeting synagogues, the British consulate and the headquarters of a bank.  67 people were killed and more than 700 injured.

Experts point out that many of these al-Qaida members had fled to Turkish border cities after being defeated in battle against U.S.-led forces in !raq.

International relations expert Soli Ozel of Kadir Has University fears a repeat of the events in Iraq, for both Syria and Turkey.

"We don't know if we are going to have a repeat of Iraq in terms of al-Qaida involvement in Syria. But given the fact that  things are reverting back to a civil war conditions again in Iraq between Sunni and Shia and al-Qaida appears to be back. To have this radical elements on two of our southern borders, I don't think it bodes well for Turkey -- a country which has a serious ethnic problem and a sectarian one," Ozel said.
 
For now observers say Ankara's priority appears to be the growing Syrian refugee crisis its facing in the east and the bringing down of the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria. But over the past few years, with Turkish security forces having detained scores of al-Qaida suspects, concerns are growing in Turkey that another crisis is brewing that will cause even bigger problems.

You May Like

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Godwin from: Nigeria
August 25, 2012 7:55 AM
Al qaida is a meddlesome group and may launch themselves in whether invited or not. But the right move should be to stop them now that rumors have shown that they are bringing themselves into the matter. 'Nip it in the bud' should be the right step in the right direction. If allowed to take foothold, it'll become difficult to remove them after a long stay. Turkey has shown it's in support of the opposition, so go straight and help them; indirect use of guerrillas is a direct invitation to al qaida and formation another terrorist group to add to the PKK.

In Response

by: Worry from: U.S.
August 26, 2012 2:02 PM
The biggest problem with al-Qaida is its being the most organized group on the ground. It is in a position to intimidate or control other groups who are not as tightly structured.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbasi
X
Scott Stearns
August 21, 2014 9:20 PM
The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid