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

Obama Pledges 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Burials

Country is improving at rapid response to remote, isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace Christmas precisely because of its non-religious glamor and commercial appeal 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.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid