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Officials work on one of the scenes of the twin car bomb attacks in the town of Reyhanli (photo: REUTERS/Umit Bektas)
Image: Reuters

Who were the Reyhanli attackers?

Thomas Seibert / ai
May 14, 2013

After deadly bombings in the Turkish town of Reyhanli, opposition parties in Ankara have begun to question the government's Syria policy. Critics believe it was, in fact, Syrian rebels who were behind the blast.


Levent Tüzel is used to not agreeing with the Turkish government. Last winter the independent left-wing parliamentarian was among the politicians who protested against the stationing of NATO patriot missiles in the country.

After the attack at Reyhanli, Tüzel once again finds himself on the side of government opponents. He thinks that it's not the Syrian regime that was behind the car bombs, but instead, "people here are saying it was the Free Syrian Army," Tüzel wrote on Twitter while visiting the town.

Tüzel is not alone with his theory. Other opposition politicians are also raising doubts over the official government version of events. Hasan Akgöl of the CHP opposition party has asked why there were hardly any Syrians among Saturday's victims – although there are some 40,000 Syrian refugees in the city.

He also called on the government to explain why it imposed a news blackout in Reyhanli. Akgöl and others are convinced that Ankara is trying to prevent reports about Syrian rebels being behind the attacks.

Ankara stays course

From the perspective of the Turkish government, such theories are nothing but nonsense. There was serious proof that Assad's regime was behind the two car bombs in Reyhanli, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters in Ankara.

Free Syrian Army fighters (photo: REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah)
Turkey's opposition believes, Syrian rebels were behind the Reyhanli attacksImage: Reuters

The Syrian opposition had nothing to do with it, he said.

Erdogan confirmed media reports saying that the bombers had initially planned to attack government buildings in Ankara and only because of the right security in the capital went to Reyhanli instead.

Erdogan's government is certain that a leftist splinter group was acting on behalf of the Syrian secret service with the intention to destabilize the Reyhanli region and Turkey as a whole. Nine suspects are currently in custody and are said to be talking.

Debate over Syrian police heats up

The debate over who the Reyhanli attackers were is casting a new light on a long-standing controversy in Turkey. The Erdogan government argues that with the escalation in Syria, Ankara had no other choice but to back the rebel opposition. After all, hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled to Turkey and Ankara had to welcome them.

"Do you close the door on a woman running to you from getting raped?" Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu asked.

Ahmet Davutoglu (photo: EPA/ZURAB KURTSIKIDZE)
"Do you close the door on a woman running to you from getting raped?" Davutoglu askedImage: picture-alliance/dpa

Erdogan's political enemies in Turkey, however, stress that taking sides had led their country into the very heart of the conflict in Syria. The political opposition from Syria can meet in Istanbul, while the fighting units from the rebels can move freely in the border regions such as Reyhanli and organize weapons and supplies.

Turkish opposition members say that before the bomb blasts, Syrian rebels were able to walk around Reyhanli with their weapons while the Turkish police did nothing about it.

Growing divide

Those political divides are likely to grow even wider after the weekend bloodbath. With Reyhanli, the Syrian civil war has spilled over into Turkey like never before and the opposition in Ankara knows that most Turks are rather skeptical of Erdogan's policy on Syria. Only 28 percent of voters support the course of the premier, according to a recent poll.

For the opposition, of course, there is no other political issue with which Erdogan can so easily be attacked – and there are three elections coming up in Turkey in the next three years.

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