On Monday night, a car bomb exploded near a police station in Gaziantep, a city close to Turkey’s border with Syria. Nine people -- all civilians, and including four children -- were killed in the blast, and as many as 70 people were wounded. The blast was caused by the detonation of a cache of explosives loaded into a car parked near the Karşıyaka Police Department.
A high-profile funeral was held for the six blast victims at the Bahaeddin Nakıboğlu Mosque on Tuesday afternoon. Two other victims were laid to rest on Tuesday, and another was buried in his hometown earlier on Wednesday.
“I want the entire world to understand that it [the terrorist attack in Gaziantep] was not a means of seeking rights. It was an act of terror carried out in an organized manner by people who have lost their humanity,” an angry and sorrowful President Abdullah Gül stated, condemning the brutal killings of the nine civilians.
There is a growing body of evidence that the car bomb blast that killed the nine civilians in Gaziantep was carried out by the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), according to Gaziantep Governor Erdal Ata.
In a statement posted on Tuesday on a website close to the terrorist group, the PKK said it was not responsible for the blast. “Our fighters have no links to this explosion,” the Fırat news agency cited the terrorist group as saying in the statement. Turkish authorities, however, believe the attack was masterminded and carried out by the PKK, but that the terrorist group decided not to claim responsibility for the attack because the victims of the blast were civilians and they feared a mounting reaction against them. Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, the governor said security forces have obtained evidence to suggest that the terrorist group was behind the Gaziantep attack.
An Iranian official has also made a statement implying that Turkey runs the risk of further attacks like the one in Gaziantep on Monday by intervening in Syria, while the US has condemned the attack.
August 18, Saturday
Turkey said that it welcomes the appointment of Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi to replace Kofi Annan as the UN’s new peace envoy to Syria, stressing that it is ready to cooperate with him for an end to the ongoing Syrian crisis. “We welcome the appointment of Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi as the new UN-Arab League joint special envoy to Syria,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Stating that Turkey believes that Brahimi will contribute a lot to a peaceful and democratic political transition in Syria in accordance with the Syrian people’s “legitimate demands” with his experience in international relations, the statement wished success for the diplomat in his new mission.
An investigation was launched by prosecutors into a video showing deputies from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and a group of terrorists from the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) together during a meeting, which was claimed to have been planned beforehand. The video showed terrorists and nine BDP deputies led by the party’s co-chairwoman Gülten Kışanak chatting and hugging each other along a highway in the Şemdinli district of the southeastern province of Hakkari. The BDP said the “encounter” was not planned beforehand. The Van Public Prosecutor’s Office announced that an investigation had been launched into the video in accordance with Turley’s Counterterrorism Law (TMK). The office said the meeting appeared to have been a pre-scheduled one in contrary to BDP’s claims that it happened spontaneously when the terrorists blocked a road along their route.
Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin was attacked by a group who threw stones at him during a visit he paid to the southeastern province of Hakkari. Şahin was touring Hakkari and chatting with shop owners along Cumhuriyet Street when he was attacked by a group of people who were chanting slogans in favor of the terrorist PKK. Security forces intervened after the group threw stones at the minister, who did not suffer any injuries. The minister was circled by police and taken to a nearby shop. Police used pepper gas to disperse the group.
August 19, Sunday
Turkey began handing out food and other humanitarian aid to Syrians on their common border as the worsening conflict in Syria makes aid distribution there increasingly difficult, Turkey’s disaster and emergency body said. The move coincided with a sharp increase in the number of Syrians fleeing the fighting in the 17-month-long uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, taking the total in Turkey to nearly 70,000 and challenging its ability to cope.
August 20, Monday
The United Nations may need to create a “safe zone” within Syria to accommodate the growing number of refugees from the fighting there, Turkey’s foreign minister was quoted as saying. Turkey, already hosting nearly 70,000 Syrians fleeing the 17-month-old revolt against President Assad, may soon be unable to cope, Ahmet Davutoğlu told the Hürriyet newspaper. “If the number of refugees in Turkey surpasses 100,000, we will run out of space to accommodate them. We should be able to accommodate them in Syria. The United Nations may build camps in a safe zone within Syria’s borders,” he was quoted as saying. “As the number of refugees [fleeing to neighboring countries] increases, the influx of people is creating a humanitarian plight and human tragedy. If hundreds of thousands of people leave, it goes beyond a regional crisis and needs to be regarded as an international one. We call on the UN to deal with the Syria issue,” Davutoğlu said.
August 21, Tuesday
The Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA), a terrorist group that has been largely inactive for the past decades, threatened Turkey with unspecified measures over its Syria policy. “Any military adventurism or any direct or indirect violation of the security and the social cohesion of the Armenian community of Syria on the part of Turkey will be met by similar counter-measures,” the group said in a statement. ASALA is known for terrorist attacks against Turkish targets in Turkey and a number of countries throughout the 1970s and 1980s.
A Lebanese Shiite clan that abducted a Turkish businessman in Beirut on Aug. 15 warned of unspecified action if a kinsman kidnapped in Syria is not released soon, raising fears that the Turkish hostage’s life may be in danger. Maher Meqdad, a spokesman for the Meqdad clan, said the Turkish hostage, Aydın Tufan Tekin, would not be released unless Hassan Meqdad, kidnapped in Syria by opposition forces, was released. “The Meqdad family has decided to give diplomacy a chance,” Maher told the Daily Star by telephone.
The terrorist PKK kidnapped the former head of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) branch in the Sur district of Diyarbakır, said local party officials.
A military vehicle transporting soldiers to Şırnak’s Uludere district to provide additional security for former Democratic Society Party (DTP) Chairman Ahmet Türk’s visit to the district rolled over killing 10. A number of soldiers had been sent to Gülyazı village, Uludere, to provide additional security for Türk’s visit. The vehicle, carrying 18 soldiers, rolled into a drainage ditch along the main road into the village, just 200 meters outside the village. Nine soldiers and the driver of the vehicle died in the accident, while the other nine soldiers were reported to have been seriously wounded.
August 22, Wednesday
The PKK detonated explosives planted along a rural road in the eastern province of Hakkari as a military vehicle passed by the spot. The terrorist PKK planted explosives on the road between the villages of Bağlar and Zorgeçit in Şemdinli, a district of Hakkari province, and then detonated them as a military vehicle passed by. Two Cobra helicopters and armed vehicles were sent to the site of the incident. The terrorist attack followed an air operation by Turkish jets in Iraq’s Zap and Hakurk regions on Tuesday. Ten Turkish F-16s took off from the Diyarbakır 2nd Air Force Command and bombarded PKK camps in the two regions. The F-16s targeted camps where PKK leaders Murat Karayılan, Cemil Bayık and Duran Kalkan are thought to be staying. A group of PKK operatives attacked the Şehit Mehmet İşler Police Station, injuring a police officer. Special operations teams from both the police and gendarmerie later launched an operation to find the gunmen, who escaped after the attack. Another clash then ensued in the Namaz Mountains, to which the PKK gunmen had fled. Six PKK operatives and a soldier died in the clash, while another soldier was injured.
In the strongest message yet to the embattled Syrian leader Assad, Turkish President Abdullah Gül signaled that a new transitional government for war-torn Syria will emerge within a few weeks. “Next month or within a few weeks, we will see a new initiative in the international arena for a transitional period in Syria that will involve important actors,” Gül told reporters aboard a plane en route to Bishkek. He also dismissed suggestions that Assad would stay in power in Syria. Gül indicated that a consensus among the international community regarding the important stakeholders would soon emerge without providing further details on this new initiative.
August 23, Thursday
Masum Türker, chairman of the Democratic Left Party (DSP), claimed that the AK Party calling on Numan Kurtulmuş, leader of the Voice of the People Party (HAS Party), to join its ranks is a political maneuver aimed at eliminating political alternatives.
Israel will not assign lawyers for a trial in which four top Israeli commanders are facing charges for their role in a 2010 Israeli attack on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla that left nine Turks dead, Today’s Zaman learned. A source said that Israel would avoid “cooperating in such a process” by refusing to appoint defense lawyers, defining the trial as a Turkish “unilateral judicial process.”
Leaders of four Turkic-speaking countries, meeting in the Kyrgyz capital, discussed efforts to expand economic cooperation through transportation and energy projects. “Especially in the fields of energy and transportation, there can be no working arrangement in Eurasia without the involvement of the Turkic states,” Foreign Minister Davutoğlu, who was also in Bishkek for a pre-summit gathering of ministers, said. “When the four countries unite their forces, this will both pave the way for big projects that will bring welfare and peace to Eurasia and lead the other countries [to cooperate],” he said.
Retired Gen. Çetin Doğan, a prime suspect in an ongoing case concerning the Balyoz (Sledgehammer) coup plot, defended military plans to overthrow the government when delivering his final statement against the accusations directed at him to the İstanbul 10th High Criminal Court. “I cannot understand why people were disturbed by the military’s inclusion of plans for martial law for discussion [in the Balyoz coup plan] at a time when political party leaders kept reminding people of old, provocative remarks about the order of the country,” Doğan told the court.
August 24, Friday
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said the government is opposed to Kurdish autonomy in northern Syria, claiming that it will further divide the war-torn country already divided along sectarian lines due to the 17-month conflict that has left more than 20,000 dead.
A survey conducted by Liljeberg Research International and Info GmbH revealed that almost half of the people of Turkish origin living in Germany are planning to return to Turkey.
Terrorism experts said Turkey should step up police operations against the terrorist Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) in the wake of a police finding that one of the suspects detained in connection with a bomb blast that killed nine civilians in the southeastern city of Gaziantep earlier this week is a senior KCK official. The KCK is a political umbrella organization that includes the PKK terrorist organization. An investigation into the group began in December 2009. Critics of the investigation said anti-KCK operations are politically motivated and designed to stifle the Kurdish movement, but prosecutors and terrorism experts maintained that the KCK is a criminal organization whose purpose is to create an alternative state mechanism.
More than 3,500 people fleeing the violence in Syria have entered Turkey in the past 24 hours, the Prime Ministry’s Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate (AFAD) said, one of the highest daily refugee flows since the start of the uprising last year. The new arrivals bring the number of Syrian refugees sheltering in Turkey to more than 78,000.