Turkey probes possible Syrian involvement in car bomb

Tue Aug 21, 2012 4:10pm GMT

By Nick Tattersall and Ece Toksabay

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey is investigating possible Syrian links to Monday's deadly car bomb attack near its south-eastern border, officials said on Tuesday, underscoring fears that the conflict in Syria is fuelling instability on its own territory.

A car packed with explosives blew up close to a police station in the industrial city of Gaziantep, around 50 km (30 miles) from the Syrian border, late on Monday, killing nine people including a 12-year-old child.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but senior ruling party officials in Turkey blamed the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Kurdish militants designated as a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

Turkey fears the PKK, which has waged an insurgency in the southeast for almost three decades, is exploiting chaos in Syria to expand its influence and has accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of supplying it with arms.

Firat News, a website close to the PKK, carried a statement from the group denying involvement in the attack, which took place during the Eid al-Fitr festival marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. But security sources said they believed Kurdish separatists were responsible.

"Another aim of this attack was to send a message about Turkey's foreign policy. The attack was planned through the cooperation of the Mukhabarat (Syrian intelligence) and the PKK," Samil Tayyar, a member of parliament for Gaziantep from Turkey's ruling AK Party, told reporters.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was more cautious, saying that while possible Syrian links to Monday's attack were being investigated, there was no concrete information so far.

"If there is a similarity, the methods and mentality of the terrorist organisation and Bashar al-Assad's forces are alike in killing civilians during Eid al-Fitr," he told reporters in Ankara.   Continued...

Officials work at the scene of an explosion in the southeastern Turkish town of Gaziantep August 20, 2012. REUTERS/Ihlas/Habip Demirci
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