Istanbul Explosion: Main Suspect Is Syrian; AANES Denies Presence of Name In Records

Researcher in Turkish Affairs to Majalla: Explosion Precedes Elections; Will Affect Party Alliances
Forensic experts collect a dead body after an explosion on Istanbul's popular pedestrian Istiklal Avenue Sunday, Istanbul, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022. Ismail Coskun/IHA via AP)

Six people were killed and dozens were injured in an explosion last Sunday on the commercial Istiklal Street in the center of the Turkish city of Istanbul, which is the second largest city in the country and the top tourist city.

However, its repercussions continue until now, as six people out of the 81 injured are still under intensive care.  Turkey accused the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has been waging an armed rebellion since 1984, of being behind the explosion, but the Party denied this.

No Records of Accused with AANES

The Turkish authorities arrested a Syrian woman named Ahlam al-Bashir after she was accused of placing a bomb on Istiklal Street, which is crowded with pedestrians, shops, cinemas, nightclubs, restaurants, archaeological and historical buildings, and some diplomatic missions.

The Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) denied having any records of the accused. The Syrian woman, whom the Turkish security services described as the main suspect, said that she had received training from an armed Kurdish group and that she had managed to enter Turkish territory through the area between the Syrian province of Idlib and the nearby region of Afrin.

SDF Denies Any Connection with Istanbul Explosion

Mazloum Abdi, Commander in Chief of the Syrian Democratic Forces, known by the acronym SDF, denied the existence of any connection of his US-backed forces, and the international coalition it leads against ISIS, with the explosion that occurred on Istiklal Street near Taksim Square in the European part of Istanbul.

Abdi tweeted on his official account, saying, “We confirm that our forces have nothing to do with the Istanbul bombing, and we reject the allegations accusing our forces of that.”

He added, “We express our sincere condolences to the families of the missing and the Turkish people, and we wish the injured a speedy recovery."

The political analyst and researcher on Turkish affairs, Khorshid Dali, pointed out that "Turkey has its scripted accusations at the ready, as it has constantly accused the Kurds and the PKK of being behind the attacks that Turkey witnessed during the past decade, including terrorist ones, and it comes in the context of the Turkish policy that aims to eradicate this Party, whether through political action, such as the current accusations of being behind the Istiklal Street explosion, or through military action on the ground.”

Security and ambulances at the scene after an explosion on Istanbul's popular pedestrian Istiklal Avenue, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

Dali told Majalla, "The current ruling alliance in Turkey between the Justice and Development Party led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Nationalist Movement Party led by Devlet Bahceli is mainly based on fighting the Kurdish component and excluding it from the Turkish political scene.  This is especially true after the rise of the Kurds in the past decade and the arrival of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Peoples to Parliament and its ability to ally with many currents in Turkish circles and put the Kurdish issue on its political agenda.”

“Therefore, we will find such ready made accusations whenever a terrorist bombing occurs, even without any investigations being conducted,” he said.

The Nationalist Movement Party: Biggest Beneficiary of Explosion

He added: "The Nationalist Movement Party is one of the biggest beneficiaries of the explosion, even more than the Justice and Development Party, especially in terms of the timing of the explosion, as it followed meetings that took place between the party led by Erdogan and the pro-Kurdish party and which disfavored the Nationalist Movement Party. These meetings may eventually lead to understandings and possibly alliances between the two parties in the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections.”

He continued, "The occurrence of any understandings or alliance between the Justice and Development Party and the pro-Kurdish party means removing the Nationalist Movement Party from the political scene. Therefore, I believe that the Nationalist Movement Party is benefiting from the explosion, especially since it may block the way for any understandings between Erdogan's party and the pro-Kurdish party after accusing Kurdish groups of being behind the explosion that occurred on Istiklal Street.”

According to Dali, the explosion in Istiklal Street brought to mind the attacks that preceded the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2015, stressing that he did not rule out the street explosion involvement of the Nationalist Movement Party, which enjoys great influence within the "deep state" in Turkey.

Explosion Gives Authorities Green Light to Move Against Kurds

Dali also said, "Such an explosion that took place on Istiklal Street gives the Turkish authorities a green light, perhaps to launch a new security campaign against the Kurds in Turkey, especially those affiliated with the Peoples' Democratic Party.”

“It also gives them an opportunity to launch a military operation on a larger scale against the Kurds in Syria and Iraqi Kurdistan under the pretext of fighting terrorism, but these likely measures cannot result in any stability or a political solution in Turkey, as the Kurdish issue can only be resolved through achieving democracy, justice and allowing the Kurds to participate in Turkish political life.”

Explosion Precedes Elections; Will Have Impact on Electoral Coalition

He added, "The explosion that took place also carries more political goals than security goals, and it will certainly lead to the engineering of electoral alliances, especially with the approaching date of the next presidential and parliamentary elections, which will be held in June of next year.  There is a fierce competition over power between the ruling coalition and the opposition coalition that includes six parties, the former of which may come to power if the pro-Kurdish party joins or supports it.”

Main Opposition Party Will Renew Its Demand for Soylu’s Dismissal

For his part, an advisor to Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, head of the Republican People's Party, the largest Turkish opposition party that leads the opposition six party coalition, stressed the existence of "security shortcomings" in the Ministry of the Interior. This Party had previously demanded the resignation of Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu from his post. But he refused to give Majalla more details.

The opposition, especially the Republican People's Party, has always questioned the capabilities of the Turkish Interior Minister and demanded his resignation more than once, the last of which was when Soylu revealed a few weeks ago that 5,000 drug dealers were detained for a week.  However, the government pays no attention to these calls.

Another source from the main opposition party revealed to Majalla that the Republican People's Party (CHP) will renew its demand to dismiss Soylu from his post during the next meeting of the party's deputies in the Turkish Parliament because he was unable to thwart the explosion that occurred on Istiklal Street, the first in nearly six years.

 

Security and ambulances at the scene after an explosion on Istanbul's popular pedestrian Istiklal Avenue, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

According to Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca, 58 people who were injured in the explosion in Istanbul "recovered and left hospitals."

According to what was reported last Tuesday by the state news agency, Anatolia, Koca said that 23 injured people continue to receive treatment, and that only 6 of them are still in intensive care units.

Explosion Occurred in Tourist Destination

Istiklal Street, where the explosion occurred, is a lively street crowded with people, and it is known as a major destination for tourists visiting Istanbul and frequenting shops, restaurants, clothing stores, cinemas, exhibitions, and archaeological and historical places that are located in this street, through which an old train also passes, whose tracks were laid during the era of the Ottoman Sultanate.

The Turkish security services has imposed restrictions on the movement of cars and pedestrians on Istiklal Street, which will affect tourism in Istanbul, especially with the approaching year-end holidays and the authorities' fears of similar explosions in the city.

The French Consulate in Istanbul, which is located on Istiklal Street, warned its nationals not to go to crowded places in the city, for fear of new explosions or attacks.

Local Turkish sources told Majalla that "clothing stores, exhibitions and archaeological sites are closed until now," pointing out that "some restaurants and cafes opened their doors on Tuesday, after three days of the security alert in Istiklal Street so far."

The city of Istanbul experienced terrorist attacks between 2015 and 2016 which were claimed at the time by the ISIS organization and resulted in the death of about 500 people and the wounding of two thousand others.

Authorities Arrest 50 Suspects

Last Tuesday, Turkish Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdağ announced that the police had arrested more suspects in connection with the attack on Istiklal Street in Istanbul, bringing the number of detainees to 50, stressing in press statements that his country "continues its war against terrorism vigorously, and any terrorist organization will not succeed in any kind of conspiracy against Ankara."

A senior Turkish official also revealed last Tuesday that Ankara intends to pursue targets in northern Syria after it completes an operation against the PKK militants in northern Iraq.

The Turkish official, whose name was not mentioned by Reuters, said that the threats posed by the Kurdish militants or the Islamic State organization to Turkey are unacceptable, adding that Ankara will eliminate the threats on its southern borders "one way or another."

The Turkish Minister of Interior had rejected the condolences extended to his country by the United States Embassy in Turkey over the killing of 6 people in the bombing that took place on Istiklal Street, under the pretext that Washington supports Kurdish groups in northern Syria, in reference to the Syrian Democratic Forces alliance, which includes the Kurdish "People's Protection Units," which is an armed Kurdish group, also classified by Ankara as a "terrorist" organization.


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