Syria absolutely behind Reyhanlı attack, says Turkish ministry
Twin car bombings in the town of Reyhanli in 2013 left more than 50 people dead and hundreds injured. DAILY NEWS Photo
There is no doubt that a deadly bombing that killed over 50 in Reyhanlı on the Turkish-Syrian border in May 2013 was committed by Damascus, Turkish officials have claimed, despite persistent speculation that the attack was staged by al-Qaeda.
“There is no doubt that the Reyhanlı attack was carried out with support from the Syrian regime. Consequently, reports, expressions and attempts aimed at creating a perception as if there are contradicting statements among state officials are completely invalid,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a written statement released late April 6.
The statement came in the form of an official answer to a journalist’s question by Foreign Ministry spokesperson Tanju Bilgiç.
A report by Al-Monitor concerning the May 2013 attack in Reyhanlı town of Hatay, where two car bombs exploded in the town center, killing more than 50 people, apparently prompted the ministry to deliver such statement.
The Al-Monitor report was based on a reported response by Turkey’s Permanent Representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Ambassador Tacan İldem, to Armenia’s permanent representative to the OSCE, Ambassador Arman Kirakossian, who claimed that the Armenian-populated town of Kassab in Syria was being attacked from Turkish territory by al-Qaeda-affiliated militant groups.
The Foreign Ministry statement confirmed that during the OSCE meeting in late March, İldem also referred to the Reyhanlı attack, while he was listing incidents in which Turkey was targeted by al-Qaeda.
In the statement subsequently made by the Permanent Representation Office, it was made clear Turkish authorities’ statements citing terrorist elements supported by the Syrian regime as perpetrators of this attack were still valid, the Foreign Ministry said.
The statement by İldem to which the ministry referred is posted on the webpage of the Permanent Representation of Turkey to the OSCE.
“On that occasion we also gave some examples of terrorist attacks in Turkey which were linked to Syria. In this connection, mention was also made of the May 11, 2013, attack on the town of Reyhanlı, initially reported to be linked to al-Qaeda, but later discovered by Turkish security agencies to have been carried out by terrorist elements supported by the Syrian regime. All necessary explanations to the public on the background and perpetrators of this attack have already been made by the pertinent Turkish security agencies. Their statements on this issue remain fully valid,” said İldem’s statement dated April 6.
In October, the Turkish National Police underlined that the claims of the twin bombings being linked to al-Qaeda were false.
At the time, the Turkish National Police said news that appeared on some media outlets, which claimed the al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was behind the bombings in Hatay’s Reyhanlı district on May 11, were false. The statement said the news was based on the website “breakingnews.sy,” which published both in Arabic and English and was a supporter of the Syrian government. However, no evidence could be found that the statement on the website was linked to the ISIS, it said.
In February, the trial opened of 33 people accused of involvement in the deadly bombing, with prosecutors seeking lengthy life sentences.
The suspects faced charges of murder, attempted murder and injuring victims resulting from the twin car bombings.
Prosecutors in the southeastern city of Adana demanded so-called aggravated life sentences and up to 3,597 years in prison each for 17 of the suspects, including Mihraç Ural, the alleged mastermind.
The remaining 16 defendants, who are accused of complicity in the attacks, face prison terms of up to 15 years if convicted.