Mihraç Ural, who is believed to be behind the blasts which took place in the district of Reyhanlı in Hatay on Saturday, has long been in the service of the Syrian intelligence agency, the Mukhabarat, according to his former comrades at the Turkey's People's Liberation Party/Front (THKP-C), a revolutionist, communist terrorist organization founded in the early 1970s in Turkey, but which is now alleged to have been dismantled.
“Was Mihraç Ural a Mukhabarat agent planted in our ranks before [the military coup of] September 12 [of 1980 in Turkey?],” asked Engin Erkiner, a former leading member of the terrorist organization, in one of his articles published, back in 2009, on his own website. Erkiner strongly believes, like many other former members of the THKP-C and its deadly splinter faction Acilciler, Ural had always tried to exploit the organization to serve the interests of the Syrian regime.
Ural was born in Hatay province, which is on Turkey's Syrian border and where the organization was mainly active. Syria has always laid a claim on this province, which is densely populated by people of Arabic descent. Ural was one of the leading members of the organization which was known in Syria as the Hatay Liberation Army, or Uruba, and which was working to annex the province to Syria.
Shortly after his release, thanks to fake documents obtained by greasing the palms of guards, from prison in Adana in August 1980, Ural fled to Syria, where he was granted Syrian citizenship, upon instructions from Cemil Assad, brother of Hafiz Assad, only six months after his arrival, wrote Erkiner, drawing attention to the oddness that Ural be granted Syrian citizenship in such a short time.
According to Erkiner, who was among those who set up the Acilciler split of the terrorist organization, and who was also in Syria when Ural obtained Syrian citizenship, all people affiliated with the organization who were in Syria at that period had witnessed, in one way or another, that Ural worked for the Mukhabarat. “Moreover, they [Ural and his gang] had even attempted to carry out an operation against the Muslim Brotherhood in Kırıkhan (a town in Hatay) and Paris,” added Erkiner in his article titled “Was Mihraç Ural an agent?”
Ural, whose father, Zeki Ural was also a member of the Hatay Liberation Army, tried in the seventies to recruit members among Hatay's Alawite Arabs for the organization. “In the Cold War period, such organizations recruited people from among Arabs upon the demand of Syrian intelligence,” Nihat Ali Özcan, a security analyst from the Ankara-based Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV), has said to Today's Zaman.
Although some argue that the organization no longer exists today, security experts noted that there may always remain some sleeping cells within the organization to be reactivated in the future, as in the case in Reyhanlı. “Such [terrorist] organizations get, like amoeba, divided and multiplied. There are also some units [of the organization] that have not apparently been deactivated,” Özcan said, referring to bomb attacks in Reyhanlı.
Ural, who is the number one suspect of the bombings in Reyhanlı which has claimed the lives of 51 people so far, denied any responsibility in the bombings. He's never worked for any state, and has never taken any weapons in hand until the civil war broke out in Syria, he told Radikal daily on Tuesday. “Those who carry out such an act are those who want to play havoc with the [regional] balances in the Middle East,” he said, referring to blasts in Reyhanlı.
But analysts don't find Ural's arguments convincing. “It's natural that Ural doesn't claim responsibility for the bombings,” said Mehmet Özcan, head of the Ankara Strategy Institute, who strongly believes Ural may be the person behind the attack. Sharing Nihat Ali's view in regards to deactivated units of the organization, Özcan is of the opinion that the bombs in Reyhanlı may serve two purposes: First is to demoralize Turkey and to teach Turkey a lesson in response to the attitude she has adopted in the civil war in Syria.
The second is to send a message to Kurdistan Workers' Party [PKK] terrorists who may not want to stop fighting against the Turkish state. With this bombing, the message given is that, ‘Look, we can carry out attacks.' By reviving the Acilciler, they may wish to fill in the void the PKK is expected to leave [in the Hatay region],” Özcan has told Today's Zaman.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, on Tuesday, that investigations have revealed the perpetrators behind the bombings in Hatay and maintained that the attacks were orchestrated by a Turkish group linked to the Syrian regime. Following the bombings, 13 Turkish citizens were taken into custody so far and interrogations are ongoing.
Nicknamed hyena, Ural left Turkey more than 30 years ago, and now reportedly lives in Latakia, Syria. Of Arab ethnicity, he has been married to Malak Fadal, who is both a relative to and secretary to Cemil Assad, who is believed to be one of the behind-the-scenes power figures in the Syrian regime.
Erkiner also wrote on his web page that Ural has responsibility in the killing of five of his communist comrades and became a double agent, working for both Syrian and Turkish intelligence agencies after he got arrested in March 1978 in Turkey. According to Erkiner and İbrahim Yalçın, another founding member of Acilciler, who spoke to Sabah daily on Monday, Ural, who introduced himself as a young member of the Uruba often got together, in the past, with leading members of the organization. His maternal grandfather was, they claimed, one of the leading members of the Hatay branch of Turkey's National Intelligence Organization (MİT).
He was allegedly planted, in 1976, into the THKP-C by the Syrian intelligence agency Mukhabarat. He took part in the bombing of the US consulate in Adana in 1977 as a lookout man. He allegedly left, together with Ali Fuat, the second lookout person for the bombing, the spot, leaving Nebil Rahuma, the person who placed the bomb in the consulate, to his own devices. This is supposedly the only act Ural was engaged [when he was part of the terrorist organization] in. Two Turkish criminals, Abdullah Çatlı and Oral Çelik, were provided with false passports thanks to help from Ural. According to Erkiner and Yalçın, Ural, who owns a good number of real estate properties, is a person who would do anything for money.
Ural was reportedly in close contact with Abdullah Öcalan, the now jailed leader of the PKK with whom the Turkish government has been conducting peace talks to put an end to Turkey's Kurdish issue, during Öcalan's long stay in Syria, though, by some accounts, Öcalan didn't talk highly at all of Ural in his chats. “[Ural] talks of Öcalan as a long-time friend, but Öcalan said, “He is a b…” about Ural, told Sabah, Erkiner, who described Ural as the black sheep of Acilciler.
Ural, who is fighting at the side of the regime forces in Syria, now commands a unit, the Syrian Resistance, allegedly composed of 2000 militias. He is held responsible for the Banias massacre which left at least 62 people dead, including 14 children, in the Ras al-Nabeh neighborhood in Banias of Syria.