The al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has threatened Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan with initiating a series of “suicide attacks” in İstanbul and Ankara and demanded that Turkey reopen the Bab al-Hawa and Bab al-Salameh crossing points, which authorities closed after ISIL seized control of the town of Azaz.
According to a statement attributed to the radical extremist al-Qaeda-linked group, ISIL has given Erdoğan's government a deadline of no later than next Monday, Oct. 7, to open the border crossings.
The organization also claimed responsibility for twin car bombings in the town of Reyhanlı in the southern province of Hatay which killed 53 people and wounded more than 100 in May. Reyhanlı is an important refuge point for Syrian refugees who have fled the violence in their country.
The confrontation in the town of Azaz in mid-September that preceded the closures was one of the most serious clashes between the al-Qaeda affiliate, made up mostly of foreign fighters, and the more ideologically moderate homegrown opposition forces trying to topple President Bashar al-Assad.
The struggle of ISIL, however, is less about ideology and more about a fight for territory, resources and the spoils of war -- with armed ISIL fighters positioned to defend the town and a nearby opposition brigade trying to broker a cease-fire.
Turkey has been one of the strongest backers of the opposition forces in the two-and-a-half-year uprising against Assad. While it denies arming them, fighters including extremists have been able to cross its border into Syria.