World Bulletin/News Desk
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has claimed that two men who are believed to be behind the twin car bombs that killed at least 51 people in Hatay province's Reyhanlı district on the Syrian border also helped officials from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) meet with embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
According to the prime minister, the government and security forces have documents that clearly prove the claim that the two suspected bombers were the same men that drove a CHP delegation to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's residence in March.
Claims emerged earlier this week that the CHP delegation was driven to Assad's residence by two men who later participated in twin car bombings that killed 51 people in Reyhanlı on May 11. The police confirmed the reports.
“The CHP has gone to Damascus more than to Diyarbakır; they had a family photo with Assad,” Erdoğan told members of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in a meeting on Friday. Diyarbakır is predominantly Kurdish and Erdoğan frequently slams the opposition for ignoring eastern Turkey and says the opposition does not represent the entire country.
“We have documents that show that the men who took them to Assad were involved in the Reyhanlı attack,” the prime minister stated, and added, “Those who accompanied [the CHP delegation to Syria] were actually those who carried out the Reyhanlı bombings.”
Turkey was shocked by the twin car bombings in Reyhanlı that killed 51 people and wounded more than 100. Reyhanlı is a principal location for Syrian refugees who have fled the violence in their country. Turkey blamed the Syrian regime for the attacks, but Damascus has denied any role in the Reyhanlı bombings.
A group of CHP officials headed by Deputy Chairman Faruk Loğoğlu went to Syria in the summer of 2011 and met with Assad. Another delegation went to Damascus last year and met with the Syrian president. They secured the release of Turkish journalist Cüneyt Ünal, who was captured by forces loyal to the Syrian regime and kept in custody for 40 days.
When photos depicting CHP officials and Assad together surfaced on Turkish social media, it caused outrage among some circles in Turkey. The government blasted the opposition for siding with the Syrian regime despite its brutal military campaign against opposition fighters that has caused the death of nearly 100,000 people since the uprising started in March 2011.
The prime minister also appealed to Reyhanlı residents to “open their doors” to Syrian refugees in their district. “We are descendants of a refugee generation. At the same time, we are descendants of an ansar [an Islamic term that literally means helpers or hospitable] generation. Our brothers in Reyhanlı should welcome Syrian refugees in their homes. They should not see the refugees as criminals,” he stated.
80,000 refugees are reportedly housed in Reyhanlı. Locals in the district have been unwilling to welcome or host the refugees since the bombings, according to media reports, thinking that some refugees were involved in the deadly attack.
CHP deputy Refik Eryılmaz, who was one of members of the delegation to visit Assad, told a Turkish daily on Friday that the delegation did not pick those two men to drive them to their destination. “There are companies who drive visitors to their destinations in Damascus. We picked one of them. We do not know who those two men are,” he stated.
The prime minister is set to pay a visit to Reyhanlı today. He will meet the families of the victims killed in the attack, meet with town residents and visit the bombing sitesLast Mod: 25 Mayıs 2013, 11:12