Turkish intel captures key plotter of deadly Reyhanli bomb attack

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A Demiroren News Agency video grab Wednesday shows Yusuf Nazik, the alleged chief suspect in a 2013 Reyhanli bomb attack. (AFP)
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Officers work on May 12, 2013 on a street damaged by a car bomb explosion which went off on May 11 in Reyhanli in Hatay, just a few kilometers from the main border crossing into Syria. (AFP)
Updated 12 September 2018

Turkish intel captures key plotter of deadly Reyhanli bomb attack

  • Turkey had accused Damascus of being behind the explosions
  • Yusuf Nazik was wanted for planning and organizing two car bombs that killed 53 people in the town of Reyhanli

ANKARA: Following a far-reaching operation, the Turkish intelligence agency (MIT) has captured Yusuf Nazik, the key plotter of the bloody bombing attack in Turkey’s southeastern border town of Reyhanli in May 2013. This attack claimed the lives of 53 people and devastated more than 900 houses and about 150 vehicles.

The operation was reportedly carried out with the cooperation of Turkish military forces, and was conducted in Latakia, a stronghold of the Assad regime.

The operation is considered the most successful overseas intelligence operation against a Turkish national over the recent years.

Anadolu Agency denied claims that the operation was carried out by the intelligence or logistics support of a foreign agency. The operation was conducted following a nine-month pursuit and a special team composed of 24 officials was responsible.

Nazik, who was brought to Turkey by MIT agents and interrogated, was marked in the blue category on the Turkish Interior Ministry’s wanted list.

In his interrogation, Nazik said the attack was ordered by someone codenamed “Hacı” under a Syrian military intelligence group known as the Mukhabarat.

He was living in Latakia, Syria, about 70 km away from the Turkish border, with a fake identity. According to his testimony, he was searching for alternative places to attack before the Reyhanli bombing and was bringing explosives from Syria to Turkey.

“All current evidence hints at the active role played by the Syrian regime in Reyhanli bomb attack because this person has been under the protection of the Assad regime so far. He was sheltered, provided with food and protected by the regime,” Dr. Eray Gucluer, a terror expert from Altinbas University in Istanbul, told Arab News.

Gucluer said the Assad regime might have tried to trigger sectarian conflict with this bomb attack by providing explosives from the nearby territories under its protection.

Reyhanli is a key town in providing aid and shelter for Syrian refugees fleeing civil war, as well as in supporting various opposition groups.

“The Turkish state may still trace back to the factories and the places where the explosives used in Reyhanli attack were manufactured, and if it concludes that the Syrian regime was behind this attack, many things will change,” Gucluer noted.

According to Gucluer, in that case Turkey’s relations with regional powers that support the Assad regime — chiefly Russia and Iran — will be mostly affected and Ankara will increase leverage over Tehran and Moscow about its relations with Assad.

While nine people were sentenced to life for the attack, eight suspects were being sought with an Interpol red notice.

Mihrac Ural, a Turkish national known as the leader of the Shabiha group known as the Syrian Resistance (Al Muqawamat Al-Suriyah), is also sought by Turkey for his involvement in the Reyhanli attack.

Ural, who now lives in Latakia, was also among the participants of the Syria congress in Sochi in February this year, leading Ankara to ask Moscow for an explanation and the extradition of Ural.

According to Oytun Orhan, a Syria expert at Ankara-based think-tank ORSAM, this operation is significant in that it shows how far Turkey’s intelligence operations can reach out.

“Turkey’s intel agency has recently improved its overseas operation capacity in order to remove the problems at their roots and to eliminate the leaders of the terror groups, wherever they are located,” he told Arab News.

MIT has also recently increased its operations in the Sinjar area of northern Iraq against the leaders of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, whose high-ranking member, Ismail Ozden, responsible for northern Iraq, was killed in Aug. 15 with the cooperation of Turkish Armed Forces.

According to Orhan, reaching out to such a stronghold of the Assad regime in Syria was also meant to send a message to Russia amid the heated discussions over an impending large-scale military operation by the Syrian army into Idlib with the backing of Moscow.

“The province of Latakia is home to Khmeimim Air Base, currently operated by Russia. Ankara wants to remind Moscow and the Assad regime that Turkish intelligence and military forces can reach out to areas where they are supposed to have established authority,” he said.


Tortured, persecuted, deported: a tribe’s ordeal at the hands of Qatar

Updated 37 min 57 sec ago

Tortured, persecuted, deported: a tribe’s ordeal at the hands of Qatar

  • The tribe’s ordeal began in 1996, when some of their members voiced support for Sheikh Khalifa Al-Thani
  • Another member of the tribe twice lost his job at Qatar Petroleum, in 1999 and 2003, simply because he was a member of the Al-Ghufran tribe

GENEVA: Members of a prominent tribe told an audience in Geneva on Thursday how they were stripped of their nationality and suffered torture, forced displacement and deportation in a 22-year campaign of systematic persecution by authorities in Qatar.
“My story is about wanting my rights, and I hope my story reaches your hearts,” said Hamed Al-Ghufrani, whose family was forced to flee Qatar for the UAE in 1996.
Another member of the tribe twice lost his job at Qatar Petroleum, in 1999 and 2003, simply because he was a member of the Al-Ghufran tribe, and had his nationality revoked in 2005. 
His 14-year-old son spoke of being a “stateless person” and called on the UN to end the persecution so he could return to Qatar.
The press conference at the Swiss Press Club, organized by the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, came two days after the Al-Ghufran delegation staged a protest in front of the UN building in Geneva during the 39th session of the UN Human Rights Council.
The tribe’s ordeal began in 1996, when some of their members voiced support for Sheikh Khalifa Al-Thani, the Qatari emir deposed the previous year by his son Hamad, father of the current emir, Sheikh Tamim.
About 800 Al-Ghufran families, more than 6,000 people, were stripped of their citizenship and had their property confiscated. Many remain stateless, both in Qatar and in neighboring Gulf countries.
“They have taken away our social, political and economic rights,” said
Jabir bin Saleh Al-Ghufrani, a tribal elder. “The Al-Ghufran tribe has been subjected to unjust treatment.
“I left on a vacation in 1996, and now I can never go back to my country. I can go to any place on this earth, but not my home, not Qatar.”
Members of the delegation produced passports, certificates and other documents to show that their right to Qatari citizenship was being denied.
“I ask for my rights. Our people have been asking for our rights for a very long time now and no one has even explained to us why this is happening to us,” said Hamad Khaled Al-Araq.
Jaber Hamad Al-Araq, the tribe member fired twice by Qatar Petroleum, said: “The consequences of revoking our citizenship came in waves. They took away health care, education and public services. They took away all the tools that would allow us to live in Qatar with dignity, as human beings.”
Many of the tribe have suffered from depression and other medical conditions as a result of their ill-treatment. “I was rejected many times for jobs because of the injustice we face,” said Jaber Mohamed Al-Ghufrani. “They would reject me, the interior ministry office would reject me, just for being from the tribe. We are marginalized, without value, and left on the sidelines in our own country.
“I am responsible for my family, consisting of my wife and children, and we have faced many injustices that led us to have psychological trauma. We have suffered enough.”
Abdul Hadi Jaber Al-Ghufrani, another member of the tribe, told the press conference: “All members of the Al-Ghufran tribe without exception suffered from the decision to revoke their nationality.
“Those who remained in Qatar are unable to work, travel, or act like normal human beings, they cannot trade, they cannot even give their identity.
“Those who were expelled and forcibly displaced live in exile. They cannot apply or work in any job where they can get money for they basic needs, and most of them have no official identity papers. They can no longer see their families and loved ones.
“We are here to demand our rights and we will not stop until we get our rights. From today for the next 20 years, we will not stop.”
The youngest member of the delegation, Mohammed Ali Amer Al-Ghufrani Al-Marri, 14, said: “My nationality was revoked when I was less than one year old.
“I did not have the right to grow up in my own country, I was not given the right to stay there. I wish to return to my country and enjoy my rights as a citizen.”