World Bulletin/News Desk
Turkish police detained one more suspect, identified as Mehmet G., in Hatay late on Thursday in connection with a fatal attack in the province's town of Reyhanlı over the weekend, while the police chief serving in the devastated town was removed from office.
The suspect is said to be the owner of the two vehicles that were blown up in the attack and to have carried out the deadly bombings. He is reportedly Turkish and comes from Hatay. Efforts are ongoing to capture two other suspects who played a major role in the staging of the bloody attack.
On May 11, one car bomb exploded outside the city hall while another went off outside the 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 injured in the bombings.
The Hatay Police Department's counter-terrorism teams launched an operation in the province on Thursday night to capture Mehmet G. after following up on tips sent to the department that the suspect was hiding in the province. The suspect was immediately taken to the police department for interrogation.
In a following development, Reyhanlı District Police Chief Murat Berk was removed from office. Police sources did not comment on the reason for the removal, but it is probably linked to claims that security negligence in the district led to the success of the bombings. Duygu Uzundurukan was appointed as the new police chief in Reyhanlı.
Hatay Governor Mehmet Celalettin Lekesiz told reporters that Mehmet G. is believed to be one of the “main perpetrators” of the Reyhanlı attack. He also said none of the suspects detained so far are Syrian citizens.
According to the governor, Mehmet G. attempted to flee to Syria after carrying out the attack in Reyhanlı but failed to do so due to the tight security measures on the Turkish-Syria border. Instead, he reportedly hid at a location in Hatay's Samandağ district. “Efforts are ongoing to capture two other suspects,” stated the governor. The two men, identified as D.Ö. and Y.B., are believed to have assisted Mehmet G. in carrying out the bombings.
Police sources said on Thursday that the two vehicles that were blown up in the attack officially belong to Mehmet G., who had hidden the vehicles in a warehouse in Hatay for some time before he drove them to Ankara on May 3 as part of a plan to stage the attack in the Turkish capital. However, the attackers gave up their plans to launch an attack in Ankara due to tight security measures there and then decided to hit Reyhanlı with the explosives. About one ton of TNT and C3 explosives were used in the explosions.
President Abdullah Gül spoke to reporters on Friday about the Reyhanlı bombings and said Turkish security forces are so close to shed full light on the fatal attack. "Whoever gave the order for the attack and carried out the attack will be found out soon. Criminals will not go unpunished," he stated. The president also said the bombings came as the bloodiest attack in recent years in Turkey.
Many Turkish government officials blamed the attack on a group linked to Syria. Damascus, however, denied Turkey's allegations that it was involved in the bombings.
According to police sources, the order for the Reyhanlı attack came from a commander of the Syrian Mukhabarat intelligence agency and the attack was carried out by Mehmet G. The Mukhabarat general is identified with his codename as Gen. Ethem. And the twin car bombs were exploded using a remote control by Mehmet G. The coordination between Ethem and Genç was ensured by Nasır Eskiocak, also a Turkish man. Genç and Eskiocak reportedly held several meetings prior to the Reyhanlı attack.
In addition, the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) discovered that Ethem and Eskiocak met a few times in Syria's coastal city of Latakia in the recent past. The latest meeting between Ethem and Eskiocak took place on May 8 -- three days before the deadly blasts in Reyhanlı. Ethem reportedly gave 5 million Syrian pounds (approximately TL 128,000) to Eskiocak and his team of assailants to carry out the attack.
The Hatay governor also called on the public, particularly residents in his province, to be vigilant for any piece of information that may point to the location of the suspects on the run. “Two people are being sought by the police. I ask our people to assist the police force to capture the suspects,” he stated. The governor also asked people not to pay heeds to “rumors” that erupted in the wake of the bombings, but he did not elaborate.
The governor was probably referring to claims that some Syrian refugees being hosted in Turkey were also involved in the attack.
Also on Friday, a public prosecutor released one suspect previously detained in connection with the Reyhanlı attack and referred three others to an Adana court for arrest. It was not immediately clear if the three men were detained or set free.
Late on Wednesday, four suspects were arrested in connection with the attack. Four others were released by a court pending trial.Last Mod: 18 Mayıs 2013, 10:22