Thursday, October 24

Turkey captures 2013 border bombing suspect in Syria ops


In this file photo shows people standing on the site of a car bomb explosion near the town hall of Reyhanli, just a few kilometres from the main border crossing into Syria. — AFP photo

ANKARA: The Turkish secret service has captured in Syria and brought back to Turkey the chief suspect in a 2013 bombing on the border with its conflict-torn neighbour that left over 50 dead, state media said yesterday.

Turkish citizen Yusuf Nazik, who is accused of planning the May 2013 Reyhanli bombing, was apprehended in an operation by the National Intelligence Organisation (MIT) in the Syrian city of Latakia and brought to Turkey, the Anadolu news agency said.

Turkey at the time blamed the bombing — one of the deadliest in its modern history — on the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and allied groups. But the Syrian government rejected the charges.

Anadolu also published a video of Nazik, dressed in a tracksuit top and jeans and standing by a Turkish flag, giving what it described as a ‘confession’, saying he was behind the attack and it had been ordered by the Syrian regime.

He said a man “working for Syrian intelligence” had given the order for the bombing and called on others in Syria to “return before it is too late”, saying Turkey will “look after us”.

Nazik said he was from the Turkish southern city of Antakya and was 34 years old.

Turkey has been an implacable foe of Assad throughout the Syrian conflict and has repeatedly called for his ouster.

Yet Ankara has also been working in recent months more intensely with its main allies Russia and Iran on ending the conflict.

Attention is now focused on Turkey’s reaction should the regime go ahead with a planned assault on the last rebel stronghold of Idlib.

The operation to capture Nazik which took place in Latakia is significant as the city has been a regime stronghold throughout the civil war and is seen as the heartland of support for Assad.

There were no further details on the nature of the operation and if it had been carried out with or without the knowledge of the Syrian authorities or Russian forces who are present in the area. No date was given for Nazik’s capture.

The operation is the latest in a series of high-profile swoops by the MIT.

It has brought back to Turkey in recent weeks suspects accused of links to preacher Fethullah Gulen, the accused mastermind of the 2016 failed coup seeking to topple President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, from several countries including Kosovo, Gabon, Moldova and Ukraine. — AFP