Turkish mission attack may be al-Qaeda's message to Turkey
Police officers who were wounded in a bombing attack on the Turkish mission in Somalia on Saturday were brought to Turkey for medical treatment. (Photo: CİHAN, Mevlüt Karabulut)
A bombing attack on the Turkish mission in Mogadishu by al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab is believed by experts to be a response to Turkey as Ankara breaks the ice with Syria's Democratic Union Party (PYD), which has been in fierce fights with al-Qaeda-linked radical groups over control of towns in northern Syria.
While armed fighting has escalated between the PYD, an offshoot of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), and al-Qaeda-linked radical groups over control of towns in northern Syria, Saleh Muslim, the leader of the PYD, paid a surprise visit to Turkey at the end of last week, saying that he had very positive talks with officials from Turkey, which until some time ago, tended to see the PYD as a terrorist organization.
“The PYD and al-Qaeda are fighting against each other in Syria. Attacking the Turkish embassy may be a message by al-Qaeda to Turkey over its relations with the PYD. Positive talks between the Kurdish group and Ankara have indeed made al-Qaeda uncomfortable,” Mehmet Şahin, who teaches international relations at Gazi University in Ankara, told Today's Zaman.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu recently said radical Islamist groups operating in Syria harm what he called the “revolution” in the neighboring country, denying claims that Turkey is supporting these groups which are fighting against President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
“The attack may also be a reaction to Davutoğlu's statement that radical Islamist groups are betraying the Syrian revolution” added Şahin.
Turkey, which has been a staunch supporter of the Syrian opposition fighting to topple Assad, is accused of providing logistical support to the al-Qaeda-linked groups -- the al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) -- in their battle against Kurds. However, Ankara has made its position clear, saying it will not take any part in the ongoing fighting between Kurdish groups and al-Qaeda-linked radical groups for control of the northern towns bordering Turkey.
“Beyond the PYD leader's visit, the attack may be linked to Turkey distancing itself from the al-Nusra Front. In the beginning, Turkey had close ties with the al-Nusra Front and cooperated with it. But after the West's harsh stance against the group, Turkey realized that it should break ties with it. The attack may be a message to Ankara after it distanced itself from the group,” Sedat Laçiner, the rector of Çanakkale 18 Mart University, told Today's Zaman.
Western reluctance to take bolder steps to support the opposition in Syria was due to the presence of the al-Qaeda-linked groups among the opposition.
Gökhan Bacık, an academic teaching international relations at Ankara's İpek University, stated that it was not totally out of the question to describe the attack as a message about Turkey-PYD ties, adding however that it was still early to make such comments. “Al-Qaeda has committed the bloodiest attacks of its history in Turkey in the past,” said Bacık.
Al-Shabaab, which said earlier this month that it would increase attacks during the Ramadan fasting period, had previously condemned Turkey's involvement in Somalia, as Turkey is among the few countries that reopened their embassies in war-ravaged Mogadishu.
“This attack could also be a reaction to Turkey's positions towards the regional crisis. Al-Qaeda strives to profit from chaos in conflict-torn countries. Therefore, this attack may be a reaction to Turkey's role in solving the crisis in the Middle East,” noted Laçiner.
However, a senior Turkish diplomat, who spoke to Today's Zaman on the condition of anonymity, denied the link between the PYD visit and the embassy attack, saying Turkey was harmed because of its humanitarian position in Somalia.
Turkey has led efforts to help Somalia, as the fragile country is attempting to rebuild itself after two decades of civil war and lawlessness. Aid from Turkey in the aftermath of the 2011 famine in Somalia, the opening of the Turkish Embassy in Mogadishu in November 2011 and a visit by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to Somalia in August of the same year provided momentum in Turkish-Somali relations.
During his visit to Somalia, Erdoğan, who was the first non-African government leader to do so in nearly 20 years, visited several refugee camps in the country, pledging more aid in cash and infrastructure.