The threats posed by rebel groups in Syria is the real reason behind some Western countries’ decision to either close their diplomatic missions in Turkey or issue security warnings for their citizens visiting the country, said Amed Dicle, a Kurdish journalist, on Saturday.
Such threats escalated after the murder of a commander of the Syrian rebel group Ahrar al-Sham in al-Bab two weeks ago, according to Dicle, who is also a contributor of Media News.
The jihadist group, which is a member of the Islamic Front alliance along with six other militias, accused Turkey of the murder, publishing images of the ammunition used for the assassination, claiming that they were fired by a Turkish armed drone.
Ankara’s efforts to reconcile with Damascus through a Moscow-brokered negotiation process that started late last year has severed the ties between Turkey and the Syrian jihadi rebel groups in the war-torn country. The rebel groups intensified their attacks on the Syrian army, while protests erupted in Syrian cities controlled by rebel factions.
Two meetings were organised in Turkey’s southeastern province of Gaziantep and the northwestern Syrian town of Maria, in order to calm down Syrian rebels objecting to the sudden shift in Turkey’s policies, Dicle said on Twitter.
While some rebel groups were persuaded through those meetings, Salafi jihadists, particularly the Ahrar al-Sham, remained vigilant, according to the journalist.
The jihadist group started threatening Turkey after Ankara did not respond to its demands to prosecute those responsible of the death of the Ahrar al-Sham commander, said Dicle, adding that the group is likely to have cells in Turkey.
The Turkish government can find such an attack beneficial for upcoming elections in Turkey, Dicle added, recalling that Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) gained 49 percent of the votes in November 2015 elections that followed a series of deadly attacks of the Islamic State (ISIS). The snap elections were held after elections in June the same year, in which the AKP lost its parliamentary majority for the first time in 2002.
Over the last week, nine Western countries, including France, Germany and the United States issued travel warnings to their citizens of an increased risk of attacks in Turkey, particularly against diplomatic missions and non-Muslim places of worship.
The travel warnings came amidst increased tensions over right-wing activists burning copies of the Muslim holy book, the Quran, in protests in Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands last week. Ankara threatened to block Sweden’s bid to join NATO as a response.
The measures of the Western diplomatic missions angered Ankara, which as a response summoned the ambassadors of nine countries on Thursday and issued similar travel warnings.