A red alert was issued by the National Police Department for possible terrorist attacks after police discovered that terrorists who staged a bomb attack on a police station in Kayseri on Friday which claimed the lives of two policemen and wounded six others, including civilians, had entered Turkey from Syria.
The Şanlıurfa Police Department staged operations against Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and KCK members in the provincial capital and the districts of Viranşehir, Ceylanpınar and Suruç, following tip-offs on the whereabouts of several militants who are suspected of organizing the entry of the terrorists from Syria.
In addition to Şanlıurfa, police in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır and the western port city of İzmir launched operations against PKK/KCK units.
The suspects who were arrested in the operation in Şanlıurfa, including the vice mayors of the Viranşehir Municipality -- Suna Uluğtürken and Nayıf Aslan -- were taken to the Şanlıurfa Police Department's counterterrorism unit after undergoing a medical examination at Şanlıurfa Research and Education Hospital.
The suspects stand accused of being involved in armed violent acts on behalf of the PKK and the KCK, planning the entry of terrorists from Syria to Turkey, engaging in illegal and violent acts in the streets, organizing illegal protests and marches, attacking private property and cars, business premises, blocking roads and attacking public offices and vehicles.
In addition, six more suspects were detained in another operation against urban branches of the KCK in the eastern province of Tunceli on the same day.
As part of an ongoing investigation headed by the Malatya Specially Authorized Chief Public Prosecutor's Office, the Tunceli Police Department counterterrorism unit raided several addresses and detained the six on charges of KCK membership.
The detainees were taken to the eastern province of Malatya to stand trial at the Malatya Courthouse. Four of the six detainees were sent to prison. One of the other suspects was released while the sixth suspect was released by the court pending trial.
The recent attack added a new twist to the tension between Turkey and Syria. The two countries have engaged in tit-for-tat accusations against each other. While the Syrian regime has accused Turkey of hosting opposition groups in Turkey, Ankara is increasingly suspicious and uneasy about the resettlement of PKK camps in northern Syria.
Following the attack, Turkish officials revealed their uneasiness with the fact that the PKK has begun to use northern Syria as a base to step up attacks in Turkey by crossing the border. “The Syrian regime has allowed the PKK to be based, and even run some towns, in the northern part of its country,” Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin said recently.
While Lebanon edges closer to a sectarian conflict, widely affected by events in Syria, the PKK factor constitutes a litmus test between Turkey and its southern neighbor in the face of a widening rift over how to deal with the 14-month-old political crisis.
The PKK found shelter in Syria for a long time in the 1990s until the expulsion of its leader, Abdullah Öcalan, in 1999, after Turkey threatened its southern neighbor with war.
Security experts are cautious over a possible harsh Turkish response to Syria's apparent backing of the terrorist organization. An article published in Today's Zaman on Monday noted that Turkey would not take military action against conflict-ridden Syria even though Ankara strongly believes the PKK has returned to northern Syria and that Damascus has turned a blind eye to the presence of the terrorist organization on its territory.
Inadequate control of border raises questions
Meanwhile, concerns have flared that control of the 910-kilometer-long border cannot be adequately managed, especially in the Şanlıurfa region, as the numbers of terrorists entering have increased in recent weeks. Police captured four suspects who had received bomb training at PKK camps in Syria and entered Turkey in the Akçakale district of Şanlıurfa a few weeks ago.
The recent bomb attack has caused the issue of border security to be questioned. Most terrorists use the Şanlıurfa-Gaziantep route to enter Turkey as border controls are not tight in the area.
Sources from the police cite the length of the border and the lack of necessary technical equipment to detect those entering the area illegally as problems. Smugglers constitute another problem for security forces as locals on both sides of the border have defied barriers for almost 80 years to engage in illicit trade.
With the foundation of the modern Turkish Republic, many families and tribes were separated over the Turkish-Syrian border. In some cases, half of a tribe lives in Syria while the rest of the tribe resides in Turkey.
This led to many problems for both states when they took different sides during the Cold War. The planting of land mines in the border area and security barriers have failed to deter families, who constantly continue to defy any obstacle in order to meet their relatives and engage in illicit trade.
3 PKK terrorists captured in Muş after armed clashes
Meanwhile, three PKK terrorists were captured by security forces after clashes with a group of PKK terrorists in the eastern province of Muş on Monday.
Following the killing of a noncommissioned officer on his way home on May 23 in Varto, a district of Muş province, security forces launched an operation in the rural area surrounding the village of Yılanlı in the same district.
Several days later, troops encountered a group of terrorists in the area. Three terrorists, one of whom was injured, were captured after armed clashes. One of the terrorists managed to flee on foot. The operation is currently continuing to find the one who escaped.