Turkish Opposition Says Government Ignoring Presence of Al-Qaida
ISTANBUL -- Turkish political opposition members are claiming that Turkish authorities are turning a blind eye to Islamic militants based in Turkey who are crossing over the border to join the opposition fighting the Assad government in Syria.
Mehmet Ali Edipoglu is parliamentary deputy for the main opposition Peoples Republic Party, for Hatay -- the main city in the Antakya province that borders Syria.
While he says he has no complaints about the Syrian rebels operating from the region, the past few months there has been a worrying change in the influx of new fighters.
Edipoglu says militants who are coming from Libya, Chechnya, Afghanistan, and from various countries in Africa are placed in Hatay and they say they are here to fight for Syria, to make a Jihad and bring Sharia, he says. He says they all openly say that they are al-Qaida and there have been incidents of small fights between these people and Hatay locals. Edipoglu says many are now getting to guns to protect themselves and he says he spoke to the governor and police many times and they tell him they are keeping these people under control.
The population of the Antakya region is a complex mix of Sunnis , Christians and Alawites. The region also has a strong secular population.
During a visit to Istanbul earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton voiced concern over the presence of radical islamic elements amongst the Syrian rebels. and in particular potential links to al-Qaida. (...)