World Bulletin/News Desk
Turkey needs to be more attentively focused on illegal activity in the Aegean Sea, as evidenced by the four individuals recently caught on their way to Turkey from Greece by sea.
On Wednesday, four members of the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C), a left-wing group, were caught by Greek coastal security teams in a speedboat loaded with guns and explosives off the coast of Chios, which is quite close to İzmir.
Two of the people caught are Turkish citizens, Hasan Biber and Mehmet Y., and while the other two had Bulgarian and French identity cards, they are also believed to be of Turkish origin. The boat contained a large number of weapons and ammunition such as guns, bullets, light anti-tank weapons, rocket launchers and hand-made bombs ready to be exploded. Ecevit Şanlı, a suicide bomber who staged an attacked against the US embassy in Ankara in February, is known to have followed a similar route to arrive in Turkey.
DHKP/C members have also used the Aegean Sea to illegally enter Turkey from Greece at other times in the past and until fairly recently, Turkey accused Greece of providing shelter to outlawed Turkish groups such as the DHKP/C and the PKK. But since Turkey and Greece have had some high-level meetings in the relatively recent past, Greece seems to have adopted a sterner attitude toward members planning to hit targets in Turkey.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had a telephone conversation with his Greek counterpart, Antonis Samaras, on Thursday, in which he thanked him for the successful counter-terrorism operation leading to the arrest of the members of the Turkish group.
Turkish Interior Minister Muammer Güler announced on Wednesday that a suspected perpetrator of attacks on the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and Justice Ministry buildings in Ankara in March is among the four individuals captured in the operation.
One of the suspects in the attacks against the ruling AK Party was identified as Hasan Biber, one of those captured in the recent operation by the Greek maritime patrol team. Biber is a member of the DHKP/C and had fled Turkey following the Ankara attacks.
In mid-March, unidentified assailants threw two hand grenades into the annex of the Ministry of Justice building and launched an assault on the AK Party headquarters in Ankara using a light anti-tank weapon (LAW). The attack on the AK Party headquarters shattered windows on the seventh floor, where the prime minister has an office.
The Aegean Sea is also widely used by human traffickers who transport people, usually illegal migrants from countries in Asia and the Middle East, from Turkey to the Greek islands.
People from countries such as Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Myanmar pay large sums of money to human traffickers to take part in such a journey of hope to Greece in fishing boats usually -- possibly even in the majority of cases -- without being caught by Turkish coastal security teams, given that Turkey has a long Aegean shoreline.
As the boats used for this purpose are, in most cases, old and overloaded with people, it's not rare that the journey of hope ends in tragedy, with a large number of the illegal migrants drowning should the boat sink in transit.
Encouraged by the evident difficulty in exercising control over such a large body of water against trespassers, those who are involved in criminal activities in Turkey have also been making use of the Aegean Sea to get in and out of Turkey.
It's been commonly maintained that those who carried out attacks in Turkey in the past were accommodated at the Lavrion refugee camp in Greece which, for some time now, has been believed to be largely cleaned up. According to Gültekin Avcı, a retired public prosecutor, there is only a very limited number of persons left at the camp in Lavrion.
“Most of those who formerly stayed at that camp went to Latakia. There are around 300 DHKP/C militants who are being trained at Latakia. There are also some in Lavrion, but they are under the control of Greece,” Avcı told Today's Zaman. It would be too early to affirm that the Lavrion camp has been totally cleansed up, Avcı maintained.
Two other suspected DHKP/C members were also captured in a raid of a house on Chios Island on Tuesday. Greece has repeatedly denied Turkish press reports that it shelters militants. A small number of Turkish leftwing activists live in Greece, where they have requested political asylum.
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