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

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Role in Fighting IS Carries Domestic Risks

There are Western concerns Islamic State militants soon may unleash offensive in kingdom that could create upheaval - though nation has solid intel, grip on banking system More

Asian-Americans Enter Public Office in Record Numbers

A steady deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu 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.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid