After the attack in Istanbul: have the masterminds been revealed?

Status: 14.11.2022 19:28

Is the attack in Istanbul already solved? A Syrian is said to have carried out the assassination on behalf of the PKK. The PKK rejects it, but it could not remain without consequences for relations with the United States.

By Karin Senz, ARD Studio Istanbul

Less than 24 hours after the attack in the center of Istanbul, the masterminds appear to have been revealed and the perpetrators caught. The Turkish police presented a woman, a Syrian, as the assassin. She admitted, a statement said. The outlawed Kurdish PKK or its Syrian offshoot YPG – at least that’s how the government in Ankara views the group – specially trained them and then commissioned them to carry out the attack.

According to Kristian Brakel of the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Turkey, for example, there is evidence that the PKK and affiliated groups are responsible for several attacks in busy areas of Istanbul. “An argument against this is that since the last major wave of attacks in 2015, the PKK had said it would accept civilian deaths, but never targeted civilians, always security forces.” The organization spoke of an “unfortunate side effect”.

Turkey blames PKK for attack in Istanbul: Another Turkish offensive planned in northern Syria?

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The PKK denies the charge

The PKK denied any responsibility for the attack in Istanbul. You don’t attack civilians, media close to her said. A commander of the Syrian YPG also contradicted official claims. Most recently, there were a number of attacks in Turkey in 2015/2016. At the time, the Turkish government attributed them partly to the terrorist militia “Islamic State” and partly to the PKK.

In the lead up to the presidential and parliamentary elections next summer, the Turkish media fear that the security situation will worsen again.

“A Strange Feeling”

Turkey had suffered from the terrorist attacks for years, then came the corona pandemic. Tourists had only now dared to return to the country. The citizens of Istanbul also enjoyed the new ease. “You can’t always live in fear,” says a passerby. Somehow you have to keep going. “I came and looked at this. It’s a strange feeling, but we shouldn’t get used to it as a society.”

Ekrem Imamoglu of the opposition CHP is the mayor of Istanbul. He also visited the shopping street today and spoke to traders. “We will take our responsibility to welcome the tourists of Istanbul, the guests of our city and the people of our city in an environment where they are safer than yesterday,” he promised. No one should be in any doubt about that. “We condemned terrorism and terrorist organizations at the highest level yesterday, and we condemn them again today.”

Anger against the US is great

Meanwhile, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu rejected the condolence message from the US. It has to do with the Syrian YPG, explains Turkey expert Brakel. If the PKK and YPG are indeed responsible for this attack, the anger in Turkey is understandable. The Americans have supported the YPG forces in Syria with weapons and training in the fight against the “Islamic State” for years.

This connection between the US and the YPG was a strategic mistake, says Brakel. “Interior Minister Soylu is an ultra-right hardliner.” It is very easy to engage in politics in Turkey with such anti-American anger.

Clear requirements for Sweden

Many fear political consequences of the attack. The focus is also on the negotiations, especially with Sweden, on its accession to NATO. Turkey will only agree to this if the government in Stockholm makes clear concessions regarding the PKK and YPG.

“It obviously gives the Turkish government a boost,” says expert Brakel. The Turkish government has been warning against the PKK and YPG groups for years. Members would operate from Sweden and would have found a safe hinterland there, he summarizes the charge from Ankara.

The expert at the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Turkey believes, however, that it is unlikely that Stockholm will now deliver on a large scale, as Ankara demands, among other things. There is no legal framework for this in Turkey, neither in the courts nor in the prisons.

Attacks in Istanbul and the consequences

Karin Senz, ARD Istanbul, 14 November 2022 at 17.02

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