World Bulletin/News Desk
Five suspects were arrested late on Monday in connection with the car bombings that killed 51 people in a town near the Syrian border on May 11, bringing the total number of those arrested to 12.
Last week, seven suspects were arrested in connection with the attack.
On May 11, one car bomb exploded outside the town hall, while another went off outside a post office in Reyhanlı, a main hub for Syrian refugees and opposition activity in Hatay. Fifty-one people were killed and as many as 100 were injured in the bombings.
On Monday morning, six suspects detained in the aftermath of the attack were referred to prosecutors at the Adana Courthouse for interrogation. At the end of the questioning, the prosecutors decided to release one of the suspects while the remaining five were arrested.
Among the suspects arrested on Monday is Mehmet G., who was captured by the Hatay police last week. Mehmet G. is said to be the owner of the two vehicles that were blown up in the attack and allegedly carried out the deadly bombings, too. He is reportedly Turkish and comes from Hatay.
In remarks to reporters on Tuesday, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he expects “all connections of the perpetrators of the Reyhanlı attack to be discovered soon.”
“Twelve of the 18 suspects detained so far have been arrested. Initial information suggests that they are the main perpetrators in the attack,” he said, adding that the ongoing investigation into the attack will shed light on all of the assailants' connections, including which organization or state they were supported by.
Interior Minister Muammer Güler said the police are working to find three other suspects in connection with the Reyhanlı bombings. The suspects are believed to have rented a warehouse in which to hide the bomb-laden vehicles and to have smuggled the explosives into Turkey.
Hatay Governor Mehmet Celalettin Lekesiz spoke to reporters about the ongoing investigation into the attack and said that 18 people have been detained so far in connection with it. “Security forces are carrying on their careful, detailed investigation,” he stated and added that the police are working to capture additional suspects.
According to the governor, those detained and the suspects on the run are Turkish citizens. “They are not Syrian citizens or Syrian refugees who are being hosted in our country,” he stated. There were earlier claims that some Syrian refugees had been involved in the bomb attacks in Reyhanlı.
Lekesiz added that the remains of 50 victims killed in the attack have been returned to their families and buried. “Efforts are ongoing to determine the identity of one remaining victim,” he said, adding that the victim had suffered serious burns in the explosions, making it hard to identity him. According to the governor, five of the 51 killed were Syrian refugees.
Also on Monday, the Hatay Chief Public Prosecutor's Office announced that an investigation had been launched into public officials who are suspected of being negligent in preventing the Reyhanlı bombings. “The investigation is being handled by our prosecutor's office,” the office said, but did not elaborate on who is being investigated.
In the aftermath of the attack, claims were raised that the police force and the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) did not fulfill their responsibilities to prevent the bombings from taking place.
Suspect says he met with Ural in Syria
Details continue to emerge in the testimonies of the captured suspects questioned by police and prosecutors over the past week.
The Star daily wrote on Monday that one of the suspects, identified as Yusuf N., told prosecutors that he had met with Mihraç Ural, the leader of the Acilciler, a splinter faction of the Turkish People's Liberation Party/Front (THKP-C) that operates in the border provinces of Turkey, four or five times in the Syrian coastal city of Latakia in late 2012.
“Everything began with my visit to Syria with Yusuf B. [another suspect in the Reyhanlı attack] in September of 2012. Yusuf B. helped me meet with [Mihraç] Ural four or five times in Latakia,” Yusuf N. told prosecutors.
Some police sources say the order for the bombings came from Ural, who is from Turkey but lives in Syria. Ural is a long-time fugitive wanted by Turkish law enforcement agencies. He commanded a large-scale massacre committed by Syrian regime forces in Banias, a predominantly Sunni city on the Mediterranean coast of Syria.
Being a leader of the THKP-C and its deadly splinter faction, Acilciler, which was established in the 1970s, Ural is also remembered as a figure who initiated anti-Turkey meetings in the southern province of Hatay last year. He is also reported to have led an armed group called Resistance inside Syria. He left Turkey for Syria after the 1980 coup d'état and is reported to have close ties with Syrian intelligence agency al-Mukhabarat, which helped him obtain Syrian citizenship.
Yusuf N. also told prosecutors that he met with some high-ranking officers from the Syrian army, and the order for the Reyhanlı attack had been conveyed to him by a Syrian army officer. According to the suspect, the attackers' initial targets were a mosque and shopping center in Ankara, but their plan was revised a week before the attack. “We were told to carry out the attack in Hatay,” he stated. “Nasır E. [another suspect in the attack] gathered us for a meeting three days before the attack. He said we had started down a path from which we could not turn back. He ordered us to swear that we would not turn back. Then we sacrificed a rooster and promised [God] that we would be successful in the attack,” Yusuf N. added.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 22 Mayıs 2013, 10:06