Many questions are being asked by the Turkish public concerning the bomb attack in Taksim that caused the deaths of six people, the statements made by the official authorities about the attack and Ahlam Albashir, the woman, said to be Syrian, arrested as the suspected bomber.
At least six people died and dozens were injured in the explosion that took place on a central avenue of Turkey’s largest city Istanbul, on 13 November, at around 4:20 pm local time.
Various bits of CCTV footage posted on social media shortly after the explosion showed a woman leaving a bag at the scene. After leaving the bag, the woman, who wore a black headcarf and military-style trousers and was carrying red roses in her hand, left the area.
Albashir was arrested from a flat in the Küçükcekmece district of Istanbul in an operation carried out 12 hours after the explosion; her clothes, visible on security footage as she dropped off the bag, were found in the flat at the time of the raid.
Turkish security forces announced that during the police interrogation she confessed that she had left a bomb at the scene, that she was an intelligence agent trained by the People’s Defence Centre of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the People’s Defence Units (YPG) and that she had received her instructions from North and East Syria.
The People’s Defence Centre of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) strongly rejected all the Turkish government’s accusations of PKK involvement.
The Commander-in-Chief of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) Mazloum Abdi also rejected all allegations of involvement in the bomb attack, saying that the SDF has no connections whatsoever with the perpetrator.
After Turkey claimed on Monday that the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) and its military wing were connected with the bomber, the AANES’s Department of Foreign Affairs denied all involvement and invited international forces to be involved in the investigation.
No other group has yet claimed responsibility.
The Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, who said in a statement after the attack, “If we had not caught the terrorists, they would have been smuggled to Greece”, yet he stated at a different point that the organisation responsible for the attack had planned to kill the perpetrator to cover their tracks.
The General Security Directorate announced on 14 November that the explosive used in the attack was TNT, according to evidence obtained from the crime scene.
In an article published on the T24 news site, the jailed former co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtaş recalled the seizure of 52 kilogrammes of explosives from a police car in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority district of Yüksekova (Gever) in Hakkari (Colemerg) in March, and questioned the Interior Minister’s statements concerning the bombing .
The police released images of the raid on the suspect’s flat and a photograph taken at the police station after the interrogation. The suspect appears battered and had a terrified in the images.
The security forces announced that the attacker entered Turkey four months ago from Afrin in northern Syria, according to the state-run news agency AA.
The Kurdish city of Afrin has been under the control of Turkish forces and various groups supported by Turkey since Turkey’s “Olive Branch” military operation in March 2018.
A neighbour of Albashir’s was interviewed and said that she had been living in the neighbourhood for a year.
The suspect is seen in security camera footage running away from the scene a few minutes before the bomb exploded. Turkish social media users question this attitude as not fitting for a cold-blooded organisational intelligence agent.
The nationality of the perpetrator is another matter under question. Some people tweeted that in the images of the raid published by the Turkish police, an Eritrean tattoo could be seen on the woman’s arm, which raised the question of whether the suspect might not be Syrian, but rather Eritrean or Ethiopian.
On the other hand, a woman who owns a flat the suspect stayed in one night says Albashir is an Arab, according to a report by Fehim Taştekin in Duvar Newspaper.
On 15 November, it was revealed that the chairman of the Güçlükonak branch Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Mehmet Emin İlhan, had also been interrogated by police. The police had detected phone calls between Albashir and a telephone number registered to İlhan, and asked İlhan to make a statement, T24 reported.
When asked, İlhan answered, “The terrorist organisation tried to set a trap for me.”
The Office of the Governor of Şırnak (Şırnex) stated on Tuesday that the number registered to İlhan had been illegally obtained by a dealer in the Cizre district, that the number in question was not actually used by İlhan and that he had been released after having made a statement.
Just why Şırnak Governor’s Office felt the need to make a statement in support of İlhan is another question widely discussed on social media.