Turkey blames Syria for border gate attack
Turkish police officers clean on February 13, 2013 the site where a vehicle exploded on February 11 in the buffer zone between Turkey's Cilvegozu border crossing and Syria's Bab al-Hawa post, which was seized by Syrian rebels in July. Fourteen people died in the blast. AFP PHOTO/MIRA
Turkish authorities have blamed Damascus for a deadly bombing last month at the Cilvegözü border gate with Turkey, detaining five people with alleged links to the Syrian army on suspicions that they planted the bomb, which killed 14.
“Our security forces have detained four Syrian nationals and one Turkish citizen,” Interior Minister Muammer Güler told reporters March.11. Police originally detained eight people, but three were subsequently released.
“We [have solid information about] their links with Syrian intelligence and army, but this will become more clear during the judicial process,” he said.
The suspects confessed that a Syrian general ordered the attack but declined to give his full name, a Turkish official told the Hürriyet Daily News.
Güler said a request had been made to the court to formally detain four Syrians and one Turk. Three other people who had been arrested have since been released but one other suspect was still sought.
Two of the detainees arrived in the vehicle and allegedly carried out the attack while another organized it, Güler said. The other suspects are thought to have “aided and abetted” the bombers.
Two brought to Turkey
The minister said two of the suspects had escaped to Syria and were “brought” to Turkey. He did not say if Syrian rebels, backed by Turkey, were involved in their return. The detained were to be questioned by a court to face formal arrest and charges.
The Feb. 11 car bomb attack at the Cilvegözü border gate in the southern province of Hatay killed 14 people. No one claimed responsibility for the attack, but a Syrian opposition faction accused the Syrian government of the bombing, saying it narrowly missed leaders of the group.
Turkey has become one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s fiercest critics. It hosts nearly 180,000 Syrian refugees and violence has sometimes spilled over the border. Five Turkish civilians were killed in October when a mortar bomb hit a house in the Turkish border town of Akçakale in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa.
Turkey also responded in kind to gunfire and mortar rounds hitting its territory along the 910-kilometer border, and six NATO Patriot missile batteries are stationed there, ostensibly to defend it against possible attacks from Syria.
Tensions have increased in recent months after NATO said it had detected launches of short-range ballistic missiles inside Syria, several of which have landed close to the Turkish border.